"Brighton Beach" memoirs, playing through July 28 at CLC theatre in Brainerd, is a play of historical merit and themes that connect with a modern day audience. This is my second viewing of a Neil Simon play in less than a week. Simon does know how to create a captivating script. His characters are real, humorous, and deal with issues that are relevant through the ages. Director Patrick Spradlin did an excellent job of casting this show. I thought that Caleb Christiansen, who plays the lead character Eugene, and Jen Anderson, who plays his mother Kate, were outstanding. They showed emotional depth in their acting and gave a believable performance. The rest of the supporting cast brought this family to life, showing their complex relationships, their daily struggles, and their devotion to each other. Craig Hostetler plays Eugene's father, Jack, with a steady and sympathetic edge. The father figure during those times, late '30's - early 40's, had to be a strong leader, and yet, not so forceful that he shut his family out. Jack knows when it's time to listen and guide, not just sit back and give orders.
These family members are dealing with the loss of a loved one, tough economic times, job insecurity, unrest in the world, and personal struggles of finding where you fit in this world. Kate's sister Blanche and her two daughters moved in with Kate, Jack, and their two boys. In one of my favorite scenes, Blanche cries out for her need for independence and asks how far away she'd need to move. Her sister Kate says, "Far enough so you can close your own door, but close enough so I don't feel lonely." Ah, that's what it means to be in a family. We want to be far enough to claim our own space in this world, to be our authentic selves, and yet, close enough to feel connected.
The set has the details of a home from that era, and the costumes look like they came from the sewing machines and knitting needles of those times. We hear sounds of jazz and songs from the big band era as we're taking our seats and during scene changes and intermission. The cast and crew did well in creating the setting.
Go to www.clctickets.com, or call 218-855-8199, for tickets that are very reasonably priced. And, don't be afraid of the road construction. Enter the campus from the College Square end, take an immediate left once you round the corner to get to the front of the building, or wind your way around the back and enter from a door on the east side. It's worth the effort. And, hey, road construction gives us a chance to try new roads, get creative on how we get to our destination, and enhances our problem solving skills, not to mention work on our patience.
Go. Create. Inspire!
Visit my writer's blog for more posts on writing and ways to live a creative life. www.maryaalgaard.blogspot.com.