Brighton Beach Memoirs
By Neil Simon
Portland Stage, Portland ME
with Corey Gagne, Abigail Killeen, Julia Knitel, Mary Jo Mecca, Matt Mundy, Marek Pavlovski
set Brittany Vasta
lights Dans Maree Sheehan
costumes Julie McMurtry
sound Chris Fitze
“Meta-theater and lyricism reign in director Samuel Buggeln's take on the semi-autobiographical comedy by Neil Simon… [the team] have re-imagined Simon's comedic realism as poetic and subjective, and... create a striking visual idiom of memory… a lyrically remembered "dream house."
Buggeln's dynamic and cohesive cast makes taut work of the tensions barely contained in one small house…. [S]taging and blocking moves also serve to remind us of the play's conceit. During a tense dinner, family members all face the audience, perched variously not on just chairs but tabletops, a trunk, the back of a sofa. This device works to let us see faces register nervousness, dread, or irritation as the conversation haltingly unfolds, suggesting how Eugene might remember each relative's face isolated from the scene. …. In a particularly sweet memory-dream effect, characters "take" imaginary nuts from a bowl by chiming the tongs against the glass.
Buggeln's... innovations, in addition to lending Simon's work beauty, complication, and distance, also serve as a paean to theater's enduring role in the project of remembering.”
—Megan Grumbling, Portland Phoenix
“A probing and poignant production of Neil Simon's Brighton Beach Memoirs…. Portland Stage has mounted an attractive, atmospheric production... Director Samuel Buggeln makes imaginative use of the space as he draws taut, expressive performances from each of the seven actors.
Portland Stage's production of Brighton Beach Memoirs reminds today's audiences of the lasting appeal of Neil Simon as a dramatist. Mellow, heartwarming, and funny.”
“[A] feel-good production that reminds audiences to find laughter in hardship and strength in family. [In] a reimagined set[,] timber-framed walls shape the skeletal, multilevel home, allowing the audience to see into, and through, all rooms simultaneously…. Chairs form stairs between the piled-up levels, invoking thoughts of ingenuity and threatened instability. But, like the family dwelling within the house, the structure has hidden strength and unbreakable ties.
The seven-member cast has already gelled, playing off each other with ease. There is a natural flow to their interaction, whether they are delivering heartfelt emotions of fear and uncertainty or finding the joy amongst their characters' daily struggles. It's an endearing, funny play, and Portland Stage hits it out of the ballpark. ”