‘Brighton Beach’ has modern day meaning
A talented crew of Truckee High School students will step back in time this weekend to tell the story of Eugene Jerome – a 15-year-old struggling with the perils of puberty in Depression-era New York.
Eugene’s story will unfold through TTHS’s 2002 fall production of Neil Simon’s comedic classic, “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” which opens Saturday, Nov. 2 at the Truckee High School auditorium.
The play centers on the Jerome family in 1937 Brooklyn. Their story is told through the “memoirs” of their oldest son, Eugene. His questions about puberty, coupled with his family’s struggles with the Depression make for a wonderfully funny and touching story.
Director and TTHS faculty member Meara Retallack says the play was chosen for several reasons.
“I think that every high school drama student should have some kind of experience with Neil Simon,” she said. “It’s also a hilarious play interwoven with some serious dramatic moments.”
During the course of rehearsals over the last six weeks, a certain timeliness of the play’s themes have also surfaced, Retallack added.
“The father in the play is worried about the coming war (WWII) and reads/listens to the news throughout the play,” she said. “When the student playing [the father] was asked to bring in a newspaper to rehearsal, the headline in the paper brought in was a story about the coming war with Iraq.”
One of the father’s lines in the play is “…today I read the paper. Today, I am afraid for us all.”
“I think there are plenty of us who have been watching the news, or reading the paper lately, that feel the same way… 65 years later,” Retallack said. “Realizing the connection was a very poignant moment for the cast members.”
As for the cast, Retallack said none are strangers to the stage.
“This is really one of the most experienced casts,” she said motioning to the group as they practiced a speed-run through and concentration exercise last week.
As students tossed tennis balls to back and forth in various patterns, they sped through their lines in what Retallack dubbed a “team-building exercise.”
“It’s supposed to get them to be able to remember their lines, even if they’re being distracted by something – to teach them to do two things at once,” she said. “It’s also to teach them to learn to keep moving forward even if they’ve made a mistake. I’m not worried about these guys, though, because they’re great.”
Brighton Beach Memoirs features: Richard Hess, Cassie Denton, Cathy Davies, Sophia Sophusson, Tiffany Schegg, Josh Casey and Ben Gaunt. Understudies include Melissa Brock and Joe Raso.
“This is a fairly small cast, as Truckee High productions go, but they pack a powerful punch!” Retallack said.
Brighton Beach Memoirs will be performed Nov. 2, 8 and 9 at 7:30 p.m., and Nov. 3 at 2 p.m. in the Truckee High School auditorium. Tickets are available at the door for $5 for adults and $3 for children and students. For more information, contact Truckee High School at 582-2600.