By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
In the run-up to the Second World War, things are tough in the Jerome home. A young widowed aunt (Kris D. Walters) and her two nubile teenage daughters (Jenny Tityrin, Alex Altshuler) have moved in, setting off Eugene's sudden burst of puberty. Eugene's mother, Kate (Susan Doke), frets about feeding a family of seven on the meager earnings of her Willy Loman-esque husband Jack (Ken Orman). And they're all worried about the Jewish relatives in Poland who are trying to get to America before it's too late. If they make it safely to Brooklyn, where will they all sleep?
The nearly irresistible charm of this play lies in Simon's choice to reflect the bigger issues of the era—poverty, anti-Semitism and anti-Irish bias, women's limited opportunities for careers—by focusing on the humdrum details of daily life in a working-class Jewish household. Kate buys food on a need-only basis, sending Jerome to Greenblatt's grocery more times a day than he'd like. When he grows up, he tells the audience, all he'll be trained for "is going to the store."
The men in this cast click well enough to pass as real father and sons. Orman telegraphs the physical weariness of a still-young man strained by two low-paying jobs and a lot of dependents. Imagine William H. Macy playing a Jewish dad, with a touch of a Fargo accent, and you've got Orman's Jack. Somehow he makes it work. His scenes with the boys are tender gems.
Driving Miss Daisy continues through February 21 at Richardson Theatre Centre. Call 972-699-1130.
Brighton Beach Memoirs continues through February 14 at Onstage in Bedford. Call 817-354-6444.
Brighton Beach Memoirs was famously a bust in its recent big-budget shot at a Broadway revival. It lasted exactly one performance. Maybe that's what makes the little production in Bedford feel like a mitzvah. On next to no dough, they're doing it just fine, getting every laugh Simon intended. They may be the most goyishe cast who've ever played the Jeromes of Brooklyn, but mazel tov to them anyway.