When Neil Simon passed away in 2018 at the age of 91, the world lost one of its preeminent living playwrights. Across his prolific career, which spanned more than 50 years, Simon wrote for the stage and screens big and small. One of his most memorable additions to his oeuvre, the semi-autobiographical Eugene Trilogy, is also his most personal. Now through March 8, you can catch the first installment in the trilogy, Brighton Beach Memoirs, at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre.
Set in 1937, BBM chronicles a handful of days in the life of the Jerome family, as narrated by Eugene Morris Jerome, a quick-witted 15-year-old with a penchant for whining, a curiosity in girls, and a hatred of liver and cabbage. Under the direction of J. Barry Lewis, the Maltz’s production excels at breathing exciting new life into this charming portrait of family life.
A large part of the play’s success is due to Anthony Zambito’s stellar portrayal of young Eugene. He inhabits the role with a spry lightness that energizes the entire production. Acting as the nucleus to his large family unit, he shares exposition without feeling leaden, guiding the audience through different relationships’ nuances and offering perspective into the dramatic beats. He’s also the show’s comedic backbone, delivering many of the biggest laughs and providing a springboard for others’ best moments.
The supporting cast presents equally compelling performances, making for an outstanding night of live theater. Additional kudos are due to Alex Walton as Eugene’s brother, Stanley, who balances a tough-guy persona with a warmth that illuminates each of his interactions; Avi Hoffman, who brings a tender glee to his portrayal of patriarch Jack Jerome; and Laura Turnball, who imbues his wife, Kate, with the emotional weight inherent in supporting a bevy of relatives and seldom asking for help herself.
All in all, Brighton Beach Memoirs is one of the strongest plays the Maltz has mounted to date. Blessed with great material, the cast and creative team take Simon’s words to new heights.
Tickets are very limited, so contact the box office for availability.