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April 28, 2005 - Image 58

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2005-04-28

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Arts & Life

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Life's A `Beach'

JET stages Neil Simon's "Brighton Beach Memoirs"
to close season honoring 350th anniversary
of Jews in America.

BILL CARROLL

Special to the Jewish News

W

MUSIC BY RICHARD DANIELPOUR

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"He smiles at other people's humor-
ous situations and vulnerabilities," she
said. "All of his plots are within the
realm of possibility." (Simon, himself,
has been married four times and has
three children.)

ith the recent death of
Arthur Miller, a case can be
made to pro-
claim Neil Simon
Brighton Beach
"America's greatest living
Memoirs, set in New
Jewish playwright." Few
York City's Brighton
would disagree with his
Beach in southeast
status as the nation's top
Brooklyn bordering
Jewish comedy playwright
Coney Island, begins
and one of the most pro-
the aforementioned
lific.
trilogy by describing
And with the Jewish
Simon's adolescence
Ensemble Theatre in West
and family life. The
Bloomfield dedicating this
trilogy continues with
season to celebrating the
Biloxi Blues, chroni-
350th anniversary of the
cling his years in the
arrival of the first Jews in
Army, and ends with
America, a Neil Simon
Broadway Bound, cov-
play is a fitting climax to
ering the beginning
Sam Pollak plays the father of the playwright's
JET's 2004-2005 season.
in JET's production of
JET stages Brighton
career in television.
Beach Memoirs, the first in "Brighton Beach Memoirs."
All three plays in
Simon's semi-autobio-
the trilogy were writ-
graphical trilogy — and generally
ten in the 1980s and solidified Simon's
regarded as the best of -his 27 plays —
standing with critics, some of whom
May 4-June 5.
had passed him off as a "mere writer
of gags."
"One of the best things about
Real People
Brighton Beach Memoirs — something
After several years of writing jokes for
that makes it a deeply appealing play
radio and television, Simon, now 77,
— is that it deftly mixes drama with
quickly established himself as the most Simon's signature comedy," Orbach
successful commercial playwright in
explained. The play is a portrait of
the country by creating an unparal-
Simon as a Brooklyn teenager in 1937,
living with his family in crowded,
leled string of Broadway hits: four
plays running simultaneously in one
lower-middle-class circumstances.
season (1966-67) and three another
Eugene (the young Simon) is the
season (1970-71).
narrator and central character. His
He has won a Pulitzer Prize (for Lost mind is full of fantasized dreams of
in Yonkers), three Tony Awards and has baseball and girls. The play captures a
had more plays adapted to film than
few days in the life of the struggling
any other playwright (receiving
Jewish household that includes
Academy Award nominations for three Eugene's hard-working father; his
screenplays). Broadway's Neil - Simon
sharp-tongued mother; his older and
Theatre is named in his honor.
vastly more experienced brother,
"Simon is the definitive playwright," Stanley; his widowed aunt; and her
said JET Artistic Director Evelyn
two young daughters.
Orbach of West Bloomfield, who also
Family miseries start piling up,
is directing Brighton Beach Memoirs.
resulting in .several family conflicts. As
"Not only is all of his dialogue
the father laments: "If you didn't have
extremely humorous, but his writing is a problem, you wouldn't live in this
house."
multi-faceted and his characters are
In the end, the various conflicts are
based on real people, just like anyone
in the audience.
put aside, and the family's values are
renewed. "This play really has a lot of

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