Biloxi Blues Makes it a Simon Triple Play
In 2002 Surlight gave us Neil Simon's Rumors, which I described as a "riotous romp." Last year Marc Tumminelli starred as Simon's alter ego Eugene Jerome in the first of the playwright's autobiographical plays, Brighton Beach Memoirs. I loved that production so much that I wrote, " Last year's Rumors was great. This year Brighton Beach is great too. If they do a Simon play again next year maybe I'll just save myself the effort and write the review for it now: 'Yeah, they did it again. Go see it'."
Yeah. They did it again. Go see it.
OK, I have a conscience. Even though that's all you need to know about Biloxi Blues, I feel obligated to tell you some more. Jerome's in the army now and he's fallen in with a gang of classic sad sacks right out of every WW II movie you've ever seen. There's the big Polack, Joe Wykowsi (Marc Improta), the young crooner Don Carney (Justin Bohr), the cipher who turns out to have a secret James Hennessey (Jon Bow), the hustler Roy Selridge (Andew Foote) and the weak-stomached Jewish kid Arnold Epstein (Matty Price). Charged with turning these soft-bellied civilians into soldiers is their drill instructor Merlin J. Toomey (Michael Beltran).
Matty Price, Andew Foote, Marc Improta, Justin Bohr, Marc Tumminelli
I don't need to say anything about the the play itself. It's vintage Simon and it won the Tony as best play of 1985. So what about the production and cast?
The set design and lighting design by Jessica Kaplan and K. Keith Smith respectively are well executed. The entire cast was equal to the material. I was particularly impressed by Marc Improta's interpretation of Wykowski. I've always liked Surflight's Kristen Bohr so I was pleased to discover that her brother Justin is also a fine actor. He's perfect as the cigarette-smoking singer from New Jersey--very low key and natural, more like a film actor than a stage actor.
No, I haven't forgotten the two women in the cast. How could I? Erin Esposito plays the hooker to whom Jerome loses his virginity. Her Rowena is both sexy and funny and it was fun to see Esposito looking so ummm. .. tawdry. At the other end of the spectrum is the chaste and wholesome Daisy Hannigan (Kristin Alberda), a good Catholic girl who is Jerome's first love. Rowena may get your juices going but it's Daisy you'd want to bring home to mother. I hope we see more of Alberda.
And finally, Mark Tuminelli once again does a star turn as Jerome. Surflight has already declared that they will definitely be doing Simon's final play in the trilogy, Broadway Bound, next year. If Tuminell is once again tapped to play Jerome, I'm sure it'll be, to keep with the sports metaphors, a hat trick.
At the Surflight October 13 - 16, 2004 at 8:00 pm; October 14 & 16 at 2:00 pm.