• By: Karen Temple

‘Brighton Beach Memoirs’ is a Fun Night of Theatre

As Eugene Morris Jerome’s pitches thud into the side of the house, his mother hollers “Eugene” in discontent with her fifteen-year-old son’s recap of the seventh inning of the 1937 World Series.

The opening act of Kanata Theatre’s most recent production, Brighton Beach Memoirs, introduces the audience to the working-class Jerome family and the frenetic home where most of the play takes place.

The Neil Simon play is a significant part of what has become a cultural phenomenon: the “Eugene trilogy.” The multi-award-winning play has captivated audiences worldwide and has been adapted for the big screen.

Whether you have seen the movie or not, the play is like a big, warm hug. It’s Eugene’s coming-of-age story, but it is also about the struggles of daily life, family loyalty, friendships, love and all the other ingredients that the Jerome family must negotiate when living in tight quarters with an even tighter budget.

As my grandmother wisely said, life is about how you deal with problems. Despite the struggles of the Depression-era economy, the looming war, and supporting a widowed family member and her two children, the Jerome family is full of love.

Eugene provides plenty of comedic relief. His young imagination and keen observations balance tensions in the home, and his first-person narratives are hilarious. Eugene is a good kid who aspires to be a writer if his dreams of a baseball career don’t pan out.

William Mann (Eugene), a grade nine student from Canterbury High School, expertly plays Eugene in a flawless performance. The audience laughs along with his teenage takes on family and sweet yet hilarious sexual awakening.

Three of the cast of seven made their stage debuts in this play: Jamie Cachero (Laurie), Evelyn Shaw (Nora) and Matthew Walker (Stan). Opening night jitters and a full house made their performances all the more impressive. The balance of the cast, Brian Derby (Jack), Anissa Stambouli (Blanche) and Lauren Solski (Kate), were all fabulous.

Brian McManus is a veteran of local community theatre. The award-winning director has done a solid job of bringing the play to life with the help of assistant director Karine Charland.

As stellar as the assembled cast is and as top-notch as the production quality is, Eugene carries the show. We look forward to seeing more from the young William Mann.

The Kanata Theatre is a volunteer-run organization, which allows it to stage great productions while keeping ticket prices very low. Do yourself a favour and snap up tickets before they sell out.

Brighton Beach Memoirs runs until Saturday, April 6, 2024. Tickets are available via the theatre website or by calling the Box Office at (613) 831-4435.

For more information on Kanata Theatre or to volunteer, visit www.kanatatheatre.ca

Photos: Alex Henkelman Photography