Uproariously funny and with a liberal dash of home-truths and family angst, the Abbey Theatre’s latest production.
Brighton Beach Memoirs is set in late 1930s New York State and tells the story of the troubles and strife of an extended Jewish family living under one roof as seen through the eyes of one mischievous teenager.
Kain-Jack Yuille plays Eugene Jerome, a baseball and boob-obsessed 15-year-old who chronicles the comings and goings of his family from a unique perspective.
We would not be surprised if Yuille has spent a lot of time watching Woody Allen movies, and it is time well spent, with an almost flawless Yiddish twang that carries well on a number of snappy one-liners. We were very much impressed with his performance and expect great things in future productions.
James Robb plays older brother Stanley Jerome, a man whose attempts to do the right thing frequently land him in trouble and provide some of the more traumatic episodes of the story.
The interplay between Eugene and Stanley provides some of the most entertaining and raucous laughs of the show.
Kate Jerome, played by Linda Patterson, is the formidable, but ultimately vulnerable, matriarch, who holds everything together. Again, her accent was spot on, with just enough of a mix of Brooklyn and the old Country, to give her acerbic put downs a delicious bite.
Jim Shaw was spot on as world weary family head Jack Jerome, a man beset by life’s troubles but always on hand with a word of homespun advice and a hidden drive that keeps his family together.
Juliette-Anne Sheerin plays Blanche Morton, Kate’s sister. A self-conscious and at times neurotic character who emerges from wallowing in self-pity and her sister’s prison of kindness to take her place in the world again.
Her daughters Nora (Annie Sherry-Moore) and Laurie (Megan Hadden, also played by Zoe Ann Killoh) cause a significant chunk of the tension.
Laurie is a sickly child, and one clever enough to play on it when needed. The adults doting on her creates a fair amount of resentment with the other youngsters.
Eugene lusts after his older cousin Nora who has dreams of Broadway which will interfere with her finishing school, causing friction between the adults. Her final confrontation with her mother is quite powerfully delivered.
In the background is the rise of Hitler’s Germany, the early exodus of Jews lucky enough to escape to the West, and the ever-present threat of war creates a tense counterpoint to their own troubles.
The costumes and props all seem spot on for the era, and were no doubt the product of the Abbey’s comprehensive stores.
Once again the stage crew have worked wonders with the small stage and the lighting was cleverly used to create boundaries and suggest walls to the audience.
Producer Heather Osborne should be pleased with how her cast have taken this tale and run with it, providing a thoroughly entertaining evening, and if you are lucky, you might still find a ticket for either tonight (Friday) or tomorrow when the run finishes.