Great review of Brighton Beach Memoirs!

_DSF3101cc

A Delighted Audience Member’s Review of Brighton Beach Memoirs

By Fred Hertrich

As with each Quality-of-Life-Experience, the wonder of those which are – unquestionably – the very best begins with the “ingredients” ….. but beyond the correct ingredients, it is the recipe through which each is carefully and remarkably combined.

And so it is with the absolutely terrific production of Brighton Beach Memoirs currently being offered at Center Players, that  tucked-away-treasure of a community theater, neatly nestled on an otherwise undistinguished corner in picturesque downtown Freehold Borough.  If the time and opportunity to “go to the theatre” is limited, Brighton Beach Memoirs at Center Players is a “can’t miss!”

To be sure, the “ingredient” of the script is almost unparalleled.  Neil Simon …. a playwright  whose name alone is all that is necessary as an introduction …. has written a magnificent play.  Simply reading his writing alone brings the reader/reviewer to that very special historical reality of “just-before-The-War” in a somewhat-less-than-modest …. but frequently reflective home, wherein – absent any particular planning or intentionality, but simply of necessity – immediate and extended family shared food and shelter …. and the essence of “caring for one’s brother/sister” regardless of the economics of the time.

_DSF3055cc

As performed at Center Players, that writing simply glows …. and presents an effervescence which is nothing short of amazing.  And that, of course, is because of the ancillary and critically important performance “ingredients” …. the actor-by-actor performances of the cast, the beyond-perfect set design graced by authentic wall hangings, photos, painted walls …. and, as always at Center Players …. the warmth of community, as friends and neighbors (primarily from the greater Freehold area) engage in an intimacy of a small theater, physically adjacent to one another in the lobby before show time, during comfortable seating during the show, at the always-a-treat-complimentary-refreshment-laced intermission … and – for those who so wish – in lobby conversation immediately after the show.

The combination of these wonderful “ingredients” are beautifully combined in a “theatrical recipe” which is – together – a perfect full-course delight.  Every “piece” stands fully and completely on its own … in combination …. a comprehensive delicacy.

No doubt, the crème de la crème are those who perform.  Individually – and as a team – they are nothing short of spectacular.  As with the finest of performances – professional or otherwise – each actor/actress does not “play a role;” rather, each IS the role.

By example of those returning to the stage at Center Players …. Kate Barron IS Nora and with her very presence, connects not only with her fellow performers but with the unique emotional chord within each member of the audience. Sheldon Fallon IS Jack …. and at several points throughout the performance, one can observe a visceral “connectedness” among the guests in the audience, for Jack – IF one closes her/his eyes for just a second or two, becomes your grandfather,  your great-grandfather, your long-ago uncle, nephew, in-law ….

Also returning to Center Players is Steven Lerner.  Steven IS Stanley …. and as such, everyone’s older, often idolized, brother.

And of those new to Center Players …. Arielle Kopp …. An amazingly talented middle-school student becomes Laurie early in the performance …. and Alicia Rodriguez shall always be Kate. In Brighton Beach Memoirs, Alicia Rodriguez clearly “earns her stripes” to sit among the plethora of FANTASTIC performances and performers which have graced Center Players from time to time during the more-than-a-decade presence of the theater in Freehold.

Aunt Blanche (more commonly known throughout Monmouth County as Lisa Merritt) -performing in tandem with each other actor/actress – offers a magnificent artistic presentation on her own, and as a member of this simply terrific ”team of talent.”

_DSF3117cc (1)

And, of course, arguably the show’s “stopper!” …. Ryan Gordon …. Ryan’s presentation and incorporation in words, in body language, in emphasis, in totality ….  is absolutely Eugene.  Were he not surrounded by such a tremendous group of talent throughout, Eugene (Ryan Gordon) could – arguably carry a one-man-show …

Once more, Brighton Beach Memoirs at Center Players …. a cannot miss, for each for whom “memoirs of fantastic theater” matter.

Photos by Mark Lamhut

(Fred Hertrich is a multi-decade proud resident of Freehold.  With no theatrical experience whatsoever, he is the remarkably family-fortunate lifetime husband of Violet, and father of three children, all of whom were educated, in part, in the Freehold Township and Freehold Regional Schools … as is, presently, one of his grandchildren. Fred is both honored and privileged to serve as Professor of Political Science, currently for both Brookdale Community College and for Middlesex County College.)

***********  Ticket Information  *************

Brighton Beach Memoirs opened at Center Playhouse, located at 35 South Street in downtown Freehold, on Friday, April 17th and runs for five weekends through Sunday May 17th, with performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 PM and Sundays at 2:00 PM.  There is an additional 2:00 Matinee on Saturday May 9th and no performance on Mother’s Day, Sunday May 10th.  Tickets are $25 for Adults and $23 for Seniors & Students and includes gourmet desserts and refreshments.  Group rates for parties of ten or more are available. Seating is limited so call the box office at (732) 462-9093 or visit us online at www.CenterPlayers.org to purchase your tickets.

                                                Creating the Set Design For Brighton Beach MemoirsWith Love                                                                                            By Bernice Garfield Szita: Artistic Director

  

When the lights go up for Center Player’s production of Brighton Beach Memoirs by Neil Simon, the audience will be transported to 1937 in a small house in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn.  It is the home of Neil Simon as an adolescent boy coming of age surrounded by the family and household environment of the era.

We take great pride in our attention to detail in all our productions, but Brighton Beach Memoirs is one of our most challenging efforts.  Many hours were spent in designing the 14 x 18 foot stage to meet the location and atmosphere needs of this complex production. The lighting and sound components help the audience to focus on the areas of the stage where the action is taking place. This is one of Center Players’ greatest achievements with over 60 light and sound cues!

The colors of the paint match what was used in the 1930’s, the furniture was selected to fit the era and the position of this lower income family at the time, and all the accessories and props are also consistent with what would have been utilized in this deco period.

We are especially proud of the photos mounted on the wall in the house.  They are pictures of the cast and crew’s families.  Many of our team members brought in memorabilia to add to the authenticity of the set and to bring the memories of their ancestors to be part of the spirit of this production.

All this was done on a minimal budget with the help of friends of the theater and our wonderfully devoted production team. We hope you enjoy the vision of love and hope that was created by all volunteers who believe in the magic of theater and the strength of community.

Construction under way for Brighton Beach Memoirs

dolls house logo 3

Construction has begun on the next production of Center Players’ season.  Tony LeBue, Tony Dentino, Jonathon Rothman and myself, Jeff Caplan are hard at work building the set.  Set construction is an interesting aspect of theater.  It all begins with a design, an idea of the setting of the piece.  Generally a director or set designer or both read the play and come up with a plan, then the design is drawn out to scale or sometimes it’s just a sketch on a piece of paper.  Either way it’s the start of the process.  Then in steps the construction team.  They take the design and carefully lay it out on the stage using tape to make sure it all fits together perfectly.  The next step is building out the walls using studs.  Generally we measure out the studs to 48 inches on center to accommodate the luan  pieces we use for the walls.

IMG_0664

Many theater incorporate pre-built flats which is a lot easier and modular.  However, because of the size and nature of our theater we custom build our sets. After building out the studs for the walls, we put up the luan sheeting.  In this particular production a platform is called for to represent the bedroom.  We framed out the width and length of the platform and built a frame.  We then attached the legs to the frame and attached thick plywood to the top of it and ensured that it could hold multiple persons.   We always go by the rule measure twice cut once.  Detail is paramount to this theater group.  002

Next we put up the sheets of luan.  This creates the illusion of interior walls.  Careful attention is paid to adhering to the set design plans.

003

The next step in the process will be to add the moulding and finishing touches and then to paint.  The last step in the process is to dress the set with pictures, statues, furniture and nay decorative pieces that fit the design.  All of this must be done to period.  Since Brighton Beach memoirs is set in the 1940’s, we need to make sure all of our pieces our consistent with that period.  Thsi can be a challenging task.  In a space as intimate as this is, everything must be as authentic as possible.  Clothing, props and set pieces all must have the look and feel of the era.

There is a lot that goes into the production of a “period” piece such as this, but in the end it’s all worth it.  The final product shines as we strive to present the most detailed show that we possibly can.  We hope you will join us for this fantastic production of Brighton Beach Memoirs opening April 17th and running through May 17th.  Check our website for details. www.centerplayers.org

Boeing Boeing opens to rave reviews!!

IMG_0647-1

It’s a Hit! BOEING opens to rave reviews!!!
by Muriel J. Smith
Bayshore Courier News

There have been some very funny and highly entertaining plays at the Center Playhouse, but the production currently on stage has to rank up there as one of the very best on this or any other stage.

Boeing Boeing , written by Marc Camoletti and directed by Joseph Stefanelli, has a story line that guarantees a laugh or at the very least a hearty chuckle every minute; literally.

Stefanelli, who is proving he’s every bit as excellent a director as he is an actor and co-producers Greco and Colleen DeFelice were masterful in casting this two-act comedy; every minute of the play proves that here at Center Players, there is a team that excels, works together, and as a result is highly successful in producing a smash hit in which every one of the six actors stars in his own right.

Timing: That’s the first key to the success of Boeing Boeing Set in an apartment near Orly Airport outside Paris, the play features Bernard, perfectly portrayed by JD Wilson, a playboy trying his best to keep three different beautiful women, all airline hostesses on different airlines, at bay from each other while all think each is his only heart throb. Action hits a pitch when the airlines and weather alter schedules, and Bernard and his long time friend, Robert, again, perfection in action as portrayed by Daniel Conroy, find themselves with all three women in the apartment at the same time. The timing comes in the slamming of doors, entry and exit of each of the players, and the precision of each of these movements as the men work at a fever pitch to get the females apart.

Energy: That’s the next thing that sets Boeing Boeing a cut above the rest. Six gorgeous young people: Conroy, Wilson, flight hostesses Kelsey Mackler, portraying Gloria the American, Annabelle Magnusson as Gretchen the German, Kate Pentek as Gabriella the Italian, and finally a grouchy yet cheerful and endearing maid played by Amy Garland Goldman, cavort, race, run, lift, toss and frolic with each other across this tiny stage, never missing a beat in their action nor tipping over a glass or table in the melee. Again, timing is everything and this team has it down pat.
Teamwork: It’s easy to see that while everyone in the cast is brand new to Center Players, they’ve certainly worked together in other venues and are bringing a giant sized trunk full of talent to the Freehold arena. Even Wilson, a military veteran (and just that is enough to thank him for!) and fifth grade school teacher who just hit the world of theater in the last year, has already made a name for himself at the Count Basie in Red Bank with Phoenix Productions, to say nothing of his writing ability and starring role in PL@Y, which raised $10,000 for the Ashley Lauren Foundation.

Perfection: That’s here, too, as evidenced in each actor pulling off funny and crazy stunts which could very well be disastrous and harmful to health and happiness should any one of them go wrong.
If there’s any one ‘star’ in this all star cast, it’s Bernard the playboy. Wilson, tall, handsome, with expressive eyes and quick wit, is strong, masterful and flawless, has great delivery and artistic and comedic skill. But then again, Conroy’s delivery and expressions are mesmerizing and attention getting. As for the flight attendants, each actress portrays her character with an intriguing accent, great delivery, and passion. And Goldman’s caustic side glances, her abrupt one liners and her interaction with the entire cast are all belted out with timeliness and gusto. This is truly a cast where each one deserves special acclaim and admiration.

FEBRUARY 13th – MARCH 8th
Fridays & Saturdays at 8:00 PM
Sundays at 2:00 PM

At Center Playhouse
(35 South Street, Freehold)

Tickets are:
$25 – Adults*
$23 – Students & Seniors*
(Refreshments Included!)
* Plus $2 Processing Fee.*

TICKETS NOW ON SALE!
Seating is limited per performance so
get your tickets TODAY! Call the box office at
(732) 462-9093 or visit us online at
Center Players of Freehold

IMG_0647-0

Auditions ! Auditions!

IMG_0048-2.JPG

AUDITION NOTICE
CENTER PLAYERS
Freehold’s Award-Winning Resident Theater Company

announces OPEN AUDITIONS for

BOEING BOEING by Marc Camoletti

Directed by Joseph Stefanelli

American architect and rich playboy Bernard is living a beautiful life in Paris surrounded by his lovely fiancee; the real question is WHICH one? He has an Italian, German, and American fiancee, each a beautiful airline hostess with frequent “layovers”. He keeps “one up, one down and one pending” until unexpected schedule changes bring all three to Paris and Bernard’s apartment at the same time. Prepare for a hilarious take off with BOEING BOEING, a night full of hijinks and tomfoolery.

WHEN:
Sunday, December 14th & Monday, December 15th
at 7:30 PM

WHERE:
At Center Playhouse
(35 South Street, Freehold NJ)

WHO:
ALL ROLES OPEN! Looking to cast the following roles …

BERNARD: male, 20s-30s. An American architect and swinging bachelor. He is a combination of Don Draper and Jack Tripper. A ladies man who thinks he has the fairer sex completely figured out.

BERTHA: female, 40+. Bernard’s long-suffering housekeeper, cut from the cloth of the comedy of manners. Seeking French accent.

ROBERT: male, 20s-30s. Bernard’s old friend. Not a worldly chap. Jerry Lewis to Bernard’s Tony Curtis.

GABRIELLA: female, 20s-30s. The Italian fiancée, with a casual sensuality. Seeking Italian accent.

GLORIA: female, 20s-30s. The American fiancée, with an upbeat disposition.

GRETCHEN: female, 20s-30s. The German fiancée blessed with an aggressive nature. Seeking strong but outlandish German accent.

~* IMPORTANT NOTE ON THE ACCENTS: Please do not let the accents startle you or inhibit your audition process please know that there will be various directors, coaches, and actors who will be working with those cast throughout the process to ensure the best final results.

WHAT;

~ Please bring your resume and headshot (if you have one).

~ Due to the shortened rehearsal period please make sure you are aware of your conflicts when auditioning.

~ Cold readings will be conducted from the script, a general knowledge of the show is recommended.

~ Performances from February 6th – March 1st, 2015 ~
Fridays & Saturdays at 8:00 PM
Sundays at 2:00 PM

For more information about Center Players visit us online at
WWW.CENTERPLAYERS.ORG
IMG_0048-1.JPG

It’s a Wonderful Life!

IMG_0582.JPG

IMG_0582-3.JPG

ONE WEEKEND ONLY!

Your favorite veteran actors turn Center Playhouse
into the PERFECT “Home for the Holidays!”

Inspired by the classic holiday film, “It’s a Wonderful Life” is performed as a 1940s radio broadcast in front of a live studio audience featuring onstage Foley sound effects, vintage radio equipment, period costuming & radio commercials all set to the soothing sounds of your favorite holiday standards. Five actors gather on Christmas Eve, 1946, to perform the dozens of characters to bring this heart-warming tale to life.

DECEMBER 12th,13th, & 14th
Friday and Saturday at 8:00 PM
Sunday at 2:00 PM

Tickets are only $15 for this
Limited Engagement!

Seating is EXTREMELY LIMITED so call the
box office TODAY at (732) 462-9093
or purchase tickets online at

centerplayers.org

What a Ride! Opening Night of Bus Stop!

Oh, you just have to see Bus Stop!

df483314-0346-4ce3-af1b-31b1ec286498It was so exciting seeing the opening night at Center Players, this great award winning theater in Freehold,   especially after having the privilege of seeing several of the rehearsals and going with the producer and artistic director  when they sought out all the props at antique stores and junk yards.  For me, it was magical to see how a play comes together.

But even more  exciting, was the little bit of backstage information I was able to garner. I always like to sit in one of the front rows in any live performance theater…and I have often heard how my laughter at a funny line or my too-loud giggles at a particular situation have made a difference on stage. But after seeing rehearsals and being at opening night, I could see it myself! The audience really does make a difference to the actors.

Actors who were always fantastic during rehearsals, albeit missing a line or a word or two, actually shone and projected so much more in front of the audience! You could almost feel the enthusiasm on stage when there was uproarious laughter from those in the seats of this intimate little theater.  Director Jeff Caplan had told me the audience truly becomes part of the play, but it was wondrous to see it first hand.

The cast  was magnificent..every last one of them!    Two generations of Brett Sabo’s family…her mom and her eight year old son Evan, sat behind me and were obviously very proud to be part of the opening night audience. For very good reason.

Brett played Grace Hoyland, the owner of  Grace’s Diner, where all the action took place. And she was dynamic! Brett’s timing made the difference between belting out a funny line, and pouring out laughter to a very pleased audience. Beforehand, Evan exuded confidence his mom would be terrific, primarily because “she’s been in lots of plays and she’s always good!” but even he was more enthusiastic at intermission after he saw and heard her in Bus Stop. Brett’s mom, also an actress in some Brookdale Community College presentations, was also quite proud of her daughter’s accomplishment at this little theater on South Street.

Joe Orlando, who played the role of Bo Decker, the young, macho cowboy seeking to marry pretty chanteuse Jennifer Karmazin, absolutely shone in his very funny one liners. Here again, his timing is what made the difference between funny and very funny lines.  He was great.   Jennifer herself showed that in addition to great acting, she also has a beautiful singing voice…and can make a very speedy change of clothes in a less than perfect setting!

Kudos to Jeff Caplan, who has long ago shown his excellence as both director and actor, but did it again in Bus Stop.  Jeff proved that gathering together a cast that has never acted together, most of whom have never appeared on stage in Freehold, and including one who has never ever acted before at all, PLUS taking on one of the roles himself, was not really a challenge at all.  At least, that’s the way the finished product made it seem.

A veteran of the stage and behind the scenes at Center Players, Jeff the Director  also took on the role of Carl  the actor when he couldn’t find the perfect actor during tryouts to portray Carl the busdriver. His facial expressions, timing, and on stage presence also are indicative of his vast experience.

Similarly, Tom Cox, who portrayed Virgil, Bo Decker’s confidante and mentor, and who came fresh off the New York Shakespearean stage for this role, showed outstanding experience. Take your eyes off the main action during any part of the play, and watch the ‘uninvolved’ actors.  Tom  and the others kept themselves busy bringing realty to the stage.  Hard to say how many times the pretty and pert Kate Barron, who played teenager Elma Duckworth the waitress, cleaned the counter or wiped off the table, but like Tom, she stayed busy and was realistic.  Kate is another actress with plenty of wonderful facial expression; her enthusiasm for the role spilled over by the bucketful.   Hopefully we’ll see more of her with Center Players.

Without being insulting, it’s safe to say David Clarke made a very convincing drunk!   He was funny, endearing, believeable, and just plain great in the part.

But Freehold can take special pride in their own Sheldon Fallon, the insurance man turned actor  as a brand new septuagenarian!  Sheldon was the town sheriff who took on the young Bo Decker and kept order in the diner as well as in the blizzard outside the door. Looks like Sheldon has been bitten by the acting bug and hopefully will be back on stage again in the not too distant future.

Producer Colleen DeFelice played double duty, as in being involved for the last few weks I have learned to think is second nature.  When a crew member called to say he was ill and could not be there, this very able, and very efficient producer stepped in to stage manage…along with her other volunteer jobs.  But given Colleen’s penchant for perfection, it all went off well without a hitch!

 

Bus Stop is playing through November and is a delightful evening of entertainment. The Signature Series presentations of Center Players are always close to spectacular, but Bus Stop, with its humor, drama, beauty, and  talent is the perfect way to celebrate an occasion, enjoy a night out, or just simply to welcome autumn!

Bus Stop, written by William Inge and directed by Jeff Caplan, opened at Center Playhouse, 35 South Street in Downtown Freehold, on October 10. The show runs for five weekends through November 9, with performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 PM and Sundays at 2:00 PM. There will be no performance on Halloween, October 31. There will be an additional matinee performance on Saturday, November 1 at 2:00 PM. Tickets are $25 for Adults and $23 for Seniors/Students, and include desserts and refreshments at intermission. Group rates for parties of 10 or more are available. Seating is limited, so call the box office at (732) 462-9093 or visit us online at www.CenterPlayers.org to purchase your tickets.

By Muriel Smith

******************

Muriel Smith is a guest blogger for Center Players. She grew up in Union, NJ and lived in Highlands for more than 40 years, working as a newspaper writer/editor before leaving home with her husband 15 years ago to live in an RV and visit every state in the Union before determining that Monmouth County is still the best place to live. She’s now settled comfortably in Freehold.