Friday, October 30, 2009

Brighton Beach Memoirs

photo: Joan Marcus

Mining Neil "yukfest" Simon for depth might seems like folly, but David Cromer's production of the playwright's semi-autobiographical coming of age story is a revelation. Guiding the actors away from broad caricature, the director almost always scales the bittersweet memory play for emotional honesty rather than for sentimentality and easy laughs, giving the material added weight. You're likely to leave feeling that you've spent your time with flesh and blood characters rather than types. The kitchen sink approach is more successful in the play's first act than its second - the confrontation between the two sisters (played to Laurie Metcalfe and Jessica Hecht with nuance and fine detail) isn't big enough to trigger what follows - and some in the audience would have a valid point if they felt that the cast erred on the goy side. Nonetheless, the production's merits are substantial and many including a pitch-perfect supporting turn by Santino Fontana and a surprising and surprisingly effective out-there characterization from Jessica Hecht that reads like Sandy Dennis playing Edith Bunker.

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