DHCT delivers heartwarming “Brighton Beach Memoirs”

Photo by Cynthia Frabutt

The Dearborn Heights Civic Theatre presents Neil Simon’s “Brighton Beach Memoirs” for one more weekend, Friday through Sunday, with 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday shows and a 2 p.m. Sunday matinee. The cast includes Chris Washburn (left) of Dearborn Heights as Stanley Jerome, Margaret Winowiecki as Blanche Morton, Molly Menter of Dearborn as Nora Morton, Marissa Campitelle of Inkster as Laurie Morton, Greg Gedert of Dearborn as Eugene Morris Jerome, Valerie Haas of Inkster as Kate Jerome and Brian Tillman of Dearborn as Jack Jerome.

By Sue Suchyta
The Dearborn Heights Civic Theatre’s well-acted, heart-warming production of Neil Simon’s “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” has one remaining weekend, Friday through Sunday, in its well-crafted run at the Berwyn Center.

The play is the first of a semi-autobiographical trilogy about the playwright’s life, and is set in Brighton Beach, a neighborhood in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1937.

The “coming-of-age” comedy focuses on 15-year-old Eugene (Simon’s alter ego) a Polish-Jewish teenager dealing with his own adolescent awkwardness while humorously commenting on life with his parents, older brother, widowed aunt and two female cousins. His family is worried about making ends meet in a country still in the throes of the Great Depression as well as getting their Jewish relatives out of Nazi-threatened Europe.

Marc Walentowicz of Garden City, who directed “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” presents a talented cast in the heart-warming play.

Greg Gedert of Dearborn is superb as Eugene Jerome, from the impetuous movement of a 15-year-old boy to the comic candor. He captures the entertaining extremes of joy and despair that teen boys navigate on the rocky road to adulthood. Valerie Haas of Inkster is wonderfully entertaining as Kate Jerome, Eugene’s mother. She amuses the audience with the “illogical logic” many mothers instinctively use to dissuade their children from impulsive idiocy.

Haas’ scenes with the talented Margaret Winowiecki, who plays her widowed sister Blanche Morton, are warm, touching and amusing.

Winowiecki also costumed the period show, adding another level of homey realism to accompany the strong acting.

Chris Washburn of Dearborn Heights is wonderful as Eugene’s older brother Stanley Jerome. His scenes with Eugene where he tells him about girls and other life skills are laugh-out-loud funny.

Molly Menter of Dearborn, a senior at Edsel Ford High School, delivers a stellar performance as Nora Morton, Eugene’s older cousin. She brings a warmth and understanding to the role that belies her youth. Look for this young lady to light up the stage in the future.

Marissa Campitelle of Inkster, a freshman at Cabrini High School in Allen Park, plays Laurie Morton, Eugene’s younger cousin. She successfully sheds her own self-confident sophistication to believably play a naïve younger sister in a much more innocent era.

Brian Tillman of Dearborn warmed to the role of Jack Jerome, Eugene’s father. His performance became stronger and more believable as the show progressed.

Show times are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.

The Berwyn Center is at 26155 Richardson in Dearborn Heights.

For more information, go to the DHCT Facebook page, or go to www.dhctstage.org.

WSU Studio Theatre’s ‘Rhinoceros’ features Dearborn, Heights talent
Wayne State University’s Studio Theatre company will present a fascinating interpretation and visually mesmerizing version of Eugene Ionesco’s “Rhinoceros” for one more weekend Thursday through Saturday, at 8 p.m. at First Unitarian Universalist Church, 4605 Cass Ave. in Detroit while renovations continue in their basement location of the Hilberry Theatre.

When “Rhinoceros” debuted in 1959, the Western world was still reeling from the horrors of World War II, while facing the frightening implications of fascism and communism.

Director Greg Bailey, with his team’s input, decided to have the rhinoceros represent the encroachment of technology on every aspect of modern lives.

“Rhinoceros” takes a fresh look at the conformity being forced on people in the 21st century, and what it takes for a “normal” person to become a monster.

“The rhinoceros represent the technological and media takeover as our smart phones and constant need to connect online force us to lose the ability to connect face to face with each other,” said costume designer Anne Suchyta of Dearborn, a junior in the Wayne State University technical theater program. Her costumes signal the transformation in a visually startling yet pleasing way.

As the humans succumb to the siren call of the rhinoceros they shed their warm daywear colors until they next appear in glittery green and silver shades. LED lights decorate the transformation clothes with sparkling green and white lights scattered like random jewels across the shiny fabric.

The actors become the machines, and move as one, developing a herd mentality, and silencing anything that gets in the way.

Annabelle Young, a senior from Dearborn Heights, turns in a pleasing performance as Daisy, one of the last women able to resist the rhinoceros transformation.

Patrick Loos of Detroit is strong and believable as Berenger, the male lead, who is in love with Daisy. Loos’ character remains true to his imperfect self, which ultimately preserves his humanity. The others are caught up in the call of their devices, losing their ability to connect face to face.

Senior Jacqueline Michnuk of Dearborn took the theatrical “break a leg” superstition too literally on opening night Thursday when she twisted her ankle while jumping to a lower platform just before the end of Act One. The actress, who plays both Mrs. Bouef and a waitress, was carried from the theater by campus security at intermission for medical treatment.

Others in the talented cast include freshman Matt Miazgowicz of Dearborn as the logic-worshiping old gentleman, Andrick Siegmund of Pleasant Ridge as Jean, Joe Gehart of Shelby Township as Dudard and the grocer, and Taurean Hogan of Detroit as the Logician.

Botard and the café proprietor are played by senior Robbie Dwight of Detroit, while Alyssa Lucas of Garden City plays Ms. Papillon, the head of Berenger’s office and the grocer’s wife. Allison Fisher, a freshman from Birmingham, plays the Housewife.

Tickets are $12 for general admission.

For tickets or more information, call (313) 577-2960 or go to www.wsustudio.com.