01-1003-02.htmlTEXTGoMk4 mBIN URI Theatre Department presents "Brighton Beach Memoirs"
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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

URI Theatre Department presents "Brighton Beach Memoirs"

KINGSTON, R.I. -- October 3, 2001 -- In one scene of an upcoming production of "Brighton Beach Memoirs" at the University of Rhode Island, a father encourages his son to read the newspaper to follow developments in the war. In another, a son discusses joining the Army to defend his country and in another, family members worry about the fate and security of relatives in a war-torn area. Although the time period being portrayed by students is during World War II, these scenes might easily be taking place in family rooms around the nation today.

"We chose the play last year, long before the events of September 11, but it is strange how relevant the lines being performed are today. These issues that are dealt with in the play, a father and son discussing war and the threat of war, are issues that we are dealing with now," explained Benjamin Dawson of Lakeville, Mass., who plays the character of Jack, the father in the play.

Directed by Assistant Professor Bryna Wortman of Narragansett, the award-winning play by Neil Simon, "Brighton Beach Memoirs," will run Thursdays through Saturdays Oct. 11–13 and 17–20 at 8 p.m. and on Sunday, Oct. 14 at 5 p.m. Performances will be held in the Robert E. Will Theatre of URI’s Fine Arts Center on the Kingston Campus. Tickets are $12 general; $10 students, seniors, children and are available by calling the Theatre Box Office at 874-5843.

"This play is important particularly at a time when the country is stricken by what has happened," explained Wortman who also works frequently on productions in New York City and travels by train into the city. "In many of his comments, Mayor Giuliani (N.Y.-R) has said ‘it is time to get on with our lives, not by forgetting, but by helping the economy, participating in the arts, and helping all to heal.’ I believe this is what directing and producing this play, especially at this time, is all about. There is a real resonance here with what is happening in society today."

This drama with a witty heart could not be more relevant, as a mourning country tries to regain its momentum. To emphasize the connection of the play to modern day America, members of the Theatre Department and cast members will be in the lobby during intermission and after the final act to collect donations for the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.

"Brighton Beach Memoirs," the first of Simon’s autobiographical trilogy, has been called "Simon’s love letter to the past." The main character of 15-year-old Eugene Jerome, played by Matthew Archambault, of Wakefield, is a typical adolescent growing up during the depression in Brighton Beach, N.Y. From the start, Eugene’s priorities are clearly set: baseball and girls. It’s not easy to stay focused, however, in a chaotic household of seven family members including brother Stanley, who is constantly trying to dispense advice, Nora, a budding actress, and Aunt Blanche, who is coping as a single parent. To top it off, World War II has begun and between following developments and debating whether Stanley should sign up for the army, the family is concerned with the plight of family members trying to flee war-torn Poland. The play never gets too serious, however, when viewed through the eyes of the adolescent Eugene.

Perhaps one of the play's most important messages, true to the author’s style, is the ever-present need for humor.

"I think its going to be a really good show. It is a comedy but it is not super-light or farcical; it’s what Neil Simon is known for. It’s a great play for people to see now. We need humor," said Archambault.

Other cast members include:

Student Role Hometown

Benjamin W. Dawson, ’03 Jack Lakeville, Mass.
Ratkanhnha Siv, ’03 Laurie Providence
Pamela Kristine Calci, ’02 Kate West Warwick
Matthew Archambault, ’03 Eugene Wakefield
Adam Wasserman, ’03 Stanley Lincoln
Sarah Autumn Feeley, ’02 Blanche Saunderstown
Richard Leo Madison, ’04 Assistant director/ Eugene’s understudy North Kingstown
Allison Panissidi, ’05 Understudy for Laurie New Fairfield, Conn.
Kate Conway Understudy, Blanche/Kate Providence

Note to Editors: If interested in reviewing the production, please contact the Theatre Dept. at 874-5922 or the News Bureau at 874-2116 for tickets.

For Information: Bryna Wortman, 874-2705, Jhodi Redlich or Jennifer Smith, 874-2116

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