“Don’t you know, Stanley, there’s nothing you could ever do that was so terrible I couldn’t forgive you.”
Sitting in his chair at the end of a stressful day, Jack Jerome, played by Yotam Segal, GS ’21, lovingly stares into the eyes of his son, played by Erik Larsson, CC ’23, for a moment forgetting about the economic and household troubles that haunt his family and starting anew.
Jewish theater group 6Days Theater performed playwright and screenwriter Neil Simon’s “Brighton Beach Memoirs” on Nov. 23 at 8 p.m. and Nov. 24 at 2 p.m. at the Kraft Center. This is 6Day’s first production since its revival and merging with The Pale Blue last spring. Directed by Jonathan Silverman, JTS/GS ’22, and produced by David Treatman, JTS/GS ’20, the show’s simple yet creative set design paired with the cast’s dynamism and passion made for a heart-wrenching yet hilarious production.
“Brighton Beach Memoirs” tells of the lower-class Jerome family, which lives in an apartment in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, during the Great Depression. Blanche Morton, played by Monroe Lemaire, CC ’23, the sister of matriarch Kate Jerome, played by Lauren Koralnik, BC ’22, moved into the Jerome household with her two daughters after Blanche’s husband died of cancer. The play focuses on Eugene, played by Joe Meyer, CC ’23, a 14-year-old going through puberty. This life transition adds a comedic element to an otherwise dark play, which touches on themes of family strife and economic hardship.
With only a three-person production team, 6Days Theater successfully created a show that captured each character’s complex personal struggles. In one standout scene, all seven characters sit cramped around the dinner table, each revealing personal anxieties: a scene so tense that Eugene, before the scene starts, calls it a “murder mystery.” As Eugene comedically shows perturbation over eating liver at dinner, Blanche’s daughter Nora, played by Golda Daphna, SEAS ’22, exhibits extreme uneasiness over whether or not to audition for a Broadway show.
Meyer hilariously and smoothly portrayed the awkward and immature Eugene, who acted as both a character and as the narrator of the play. During moments of hostility, Eugene would capture the audience’s attention by interrupting and offering comic relief; in one scene, Eugene timidly tiptoes onto the stage to steal an oatmeal cookie while Blanche and Kate anxiously discuss Blanche’s aspirations to find a new husband.
Eugene’s humorous asides to the audience amid familial conflict revealed the play’s conflicting narratives of a search for identity and a sacrifice of identity to put food on the table. After it is revealed in a note that Blanche’s dinner date got into a drunk driving accident, the adult characters and Blanche’s daughter, Laurie, played by Ariella Rosen, BC ’22, stand solemnly together while Eugene walks haphazardly onto the stage remarking that the note “sure was well written.”
Skillful acting allowed for extremely tense and dismal scenes to pull at the viewer’s heartstrings. Stanley and his father Jack eloquently filled the stage with moments of intense gravity and solemnity. Blanche and Kate’s sizable sisterly feud was filled with moments of screaming, crying, and utter silence as both characters contemplated their sacrifices for the family.
Amid passionately delivered monologues were conversations about puberty, contrasting the play’s much more serious discussions of job loss and dishonesty. While sitting in their beds, Eugene and Stanley comedically yet cautiously discussed Eugene’s sexual desires, Stanley taking on a brotherly role in educating Eugene about sexual lingo.
All of the action took place in the Jerome apartment, divided on stage into three parts: a kitchen table, a couch with two chairs, and a bedroom in the back situated on an elevated platform. The lack of physical barriers between these three settings allowed for very smooth and fluid scene transitions, as well as a much more intimate feeling. The expansive stage also allowed for characters to run, skip, and limp across the stage with ease.
Stage manager Maya Campbell, BC ’23, assisted with minor scene changes, such as making the beds or bringing out materials for the kitchen table.
The lighting remained mostly the same throughout the production except for when it became dimmer during the play’s climax, making the scene feel more serious and momentous.
The play ended on an ambiguous note, with characters at first relieved that they made up with one another but then overwhelmed once Jack gets a letter saying that his cousins want to move in with the family. But as the lights dim and the stage becomes pitch black, each character pauses for just a moment, in the midst of an economic crisis, and looks optimistically towards their grim, yet promising future.