The only thing missing during the first three performances of Brighton Beach Memoirs staged by the MidValley Theatre Company last Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the South Fork Grange in Lostine was a sizeable audience. The Neil Simon comedy was quick-paced and full of life, the acting tastefully done, the lighting of a complex set superb and the direction of veteran Kate Loftus impeccable. But the audiences, though loving every minute and appreciative of what unfolded in front of them, were consistently down in numbers.
Theater goers will have additional opportunities to view the production this coming Friday and Saturday (7 p.m.) and Sunday (2 p.m.).
Simon's infectious humor surfaces largely through the aside narration and active on-stage participation of 15-year-old Eugene Jerome, played by Wallowa High School student Bryce Johnson. Johnson, who rehearsed only two weeks, is a natural talent and delightful in the role.
Brendan Leggett plays a strong part as Eugene's older brother Stanley, while their mother Kate Jerome, portrayed by Ame Leggett, and her sister Blanche Morton, played by June Davis Colony, keep the play moving with an interesting display of sibling rivalry.
Set in Brighton Beach, a borough of Brooklyn, New York City, in 1937, the play depicts the families of two sisters living together in one house. Morton has two daughters, played by Jessica Morehouse and Tressie Anderson, and Jerome her two sons and husband Jack, played by Craig Strobel.
The drama plays on a backdrop of a Jewish family fighting to make ends meet financially in New York City while living under the worldwide threat of Adolf Hitler.
Loftus, while addressing the sparse attendance at the productions, feared that a suggestion not to bring children under 12 years of age was taken the wrong way. She said that there was nothing in bad taste in the play, just felt that the adult content and 2 1/2 hour length, including a 15-minute intermission, might be hard for younger children to sit through.
The active blocking and quick paced dialogue made the play seem much shorter than 2 1/2 hours.