Biloxi blues by Neil Simon is the second chapter in what is known as the Eugene Trilogy, a semi autobiographical tale. It follows Brighton Beach Memoirs and precedes Broadway Bound.The original play on Broadway won a Tony Award for best play of 1985.
Haddonfield Plays and Players, an intimate 150 seat theater, does the play justice. Under the direction of Jeanne Gold the six young army recruits of WWII come to life on a clever well designed minimal set by Tom Geigel. A few baubles in the second act with set changes, but oh well, it was opening nite.
When Eugene Morris Jerome,a Jewish boy from Brooklyn, played by Timothy Petrillo, takes that train ride for basic army training in the Biloxi Mississippi of 1942, he takes the audience along for an evening of clever laugh out loud entertainment.
Petrillo plays the role well with naivity and diffidence. He really shines in his scene with Rowena, played skillfully by Lee Klaus and in the more dramatic scenes.
Eugene has four goals, to become a writer, to not get killed, to lose his virginity and to fall in love. He must manage to do all of this while navigating the eccentricities of his drill sergeant, (Merwin J Toomey, played by Mark Reavy who spits out his tongue-tying rapid fire lines with great success), as well as dealing with the personalities and prejudices of his fellow army recruits.
Ian Taylor plays a very believable Roy Selridge delivering his lines with clarity, a nice North Jersey accent and great comedic timing. Scott Partenheimer ( who must be able to do 200+ pushups in his real life) as Don Carney has great energy and captures the indecisive nature of his character well.
Hennesey is played, as it should be, with a low key subtleness by Andrew Segado. Paul Brodo does fine job of playing a very believable Joseph Wykowski.
Brian Graziani’s performance as Arnold Epstein really stands out. This is a very important character as he is a cross between Eugene’s conscience, as well as the catylst for most of the dramatic content of the play. Brian plays the role of an outspoken very principaled Jewish intellectual, blending his comedic skills, without becoming a cartoonish stereotype, using his dramatic skills to turn in an very fine performance.
Victoria Gold plays a cute and demure Daisy Hannigan with a dreamy quality fitting her character.
I especially liked director Jeanne Gold’s use of film and cartoon clips of the era to bridge the scene changes. They fit well with the script, especially the first, a Bugs Bunny cartoon plea for war bonds…complete with “You’re in the Army” now music.
The costumes were spot on. Their authenticity really helps to transport you to another era in time. Here is one of my pet peeves; it is minor, but since I am a Costume maven: Lose the character shoes. To me, they are meant for dance recitals and not the theater.
And so, from my seat in the theater, I’d advise you to go see this production. I had a thoroughly enjoyable evening. It is well done and Haddonfield Plays and Players deserve to have those seats filled.
by Neil Simon
Directed by Jeanne Gold
September 16 – October 2, 2010
Haddonfield Plays and Players
957 East Atlantic Avenue