It’s all in the details

Brighton Beach Memoirs is just the most recent example of PCPA’s excellent attention to detail in all of its productions.

So . . . Memories. They fade. They soften around the edges. They shift as time reveals new information.

They also, in the re-telling, can take on a focus and clarity of detail that probably wasn’t there to begin with.

Yet it’s the details, and the earnestness with which they are revealed, that distinguish PCPA’s production of Neil Simon’s Brighton Beach Memoirs.

Nora’s simple green sweater and gray skirt and white anklets and black Mary Janes. A multi-colored crocheted afghan hiding the living room’s faded old couch. The brickwork foundation and paneled doors of a multi-level set perfectly evoking Depression-era Brooklyn. Kate’s exquisitely timed advisement to “Put the cookie on the table.” 

Romy Evans as Nora and Jana Price as Laurie.

All these details and more come together to support a sweet, rich memory play narrated by the very earnest 15-year-old stand-in for Neil Simon, Eugene Morris Jerome (played by Isaac Capp, a second-year acting student at PCPA who holds his own with the pros). Capp, obviously a bit older than his character, still impeccably displays a 15-year-old’s energy and sometimes singular focus (especially when it comes to girls or baseball). He has wonderful company in his castmates, who together explore—as director Roger DeLaurier says—“the inner life of this family who within their small lives are surrounded by some very large world issues.”

Those larger issues generally don’t intrude on the play’s depiction of the family’s daily comings and goings. Eugene’s father (a warm and relatable Don Stewart) and brother (an amiable Cameron Vargas) help him navigate the tumultuous waters of growing up. His maternal aunt, Blanche (a flawless Polly Firestone Walker), and her daughters Laurie and Nora (Jana Price and Romy Evans, both ready for bigger roles) live with the family, causing some of the usual conflicts when families share living space. The conversation towards the end of the play between Laurie and Nora about remembering their father is particularly striking.

Isaac Capp as Eugene.

But it’s Eugene’s mother Kate (that force of nature known to adoring local audiences as Kitty Balay) who keeps the home fires burning through adversity, and ultimately this story is as much Kate’s as Eugene’s. It is her emotional, intense and entirely believable confrontation with Blanche that ultimately brings the play to its conclusion, with family members growing up, moving out (and possibly moving in thanks to one of those larger issues, namely the war in Europe), forgiving each other and loving each other, as families do.

The joy of this production in the end, however, is that it truly showcases the excellence of PCPA’s supporting technical crew and their attention to detail. Scenic designer Jason Bolen, costume designer Eddy L. Barrows, lighting designer Cody Soper, sound designer Mitchell Hampton, voice/dialect coach Andrew Philpot, and fight director George Walker have together created an ambiance and an environment that is so supportive to the actors on stage that it becomes almost invisible to audiences. As they should be, in service to the play.

Brighton Beach Memoirs is just the most recent example of PCPA’s excellent attention to detail in all of its productions.

Brighton Beach Memoirs plays now through March 1 in Marian Theatre at PCPA, Allan Hancock College, Santa Maria. Tickets here or call 805-922-8313.