Tuesday, May 9, 2017

CT Theater Review: Biloxi Blues-- Ivoryton

Alec Silverblatt and Mike Mihm. Photo Anne Hudson
Biloxi Blues
By Neil Simon
Directed by Sasha Bratt
Ivoryton Playhouse
Through May 14

By Lauren Yarger
What's It All About?
A memoir with humor from Neil Simon (The Odd Couple) about a group of young men sent to boot camp in Biloxi, MS in 1943. Eugene Morris Jerome (Zal Owen) is the Simon persona, who steps out of the action (with the help of Lighting Designer Tate R. Burmeister, who also designs sound) to give us some background or commentary on what is taking place.

The group of unlikely barracks mates arrives. Eugene, an aspiring writer, records his thoughts about his hopes that he'll fall in love and lose his virginity (not necessarily in that order) and his impressions of his fellow soldiers. There's  Arnold Epstein (Alec Silberblatt), who rebels against Army food and regulations and clashes with their no-nonsense Sergeant Merwin Toomey (Mike Mihm); Don Carney (Ethan Kirschbaum), who fancies himself the next Perry Como; troublemaker Joseph Wykowski (Conor M. Hamill); secretive James Hennessey (George Mayer) and jokester Roy Seldridge (Chandler Smith). Together they share push ups, chipped beef and learn about pulling together as a team.

Helping Eugene fulfill his two fondest wishes about sex and love are prostitute Rowena (Moira O’Sullivan) and his first love, the very Catholic Daisy (Andee Buccheri).

What Are the Highlights?
A solid production using a mix of Equity and non-Equity actors. Simon's play is poignant and personal with some humor.  Some of the themes are ahead of their time both in 1984 when the play premiered and in 1943 when it is set.

Glenn Davd Bassett's set appears simple at first glance, with Quonset type facades either side of the stage framing a bunk quarters on a raised center platform. Parts of the set reveal hidden dimension and props cleverly transform in unexpected ways.

What Are The Lowlights?
This middle piece in Simon's trilogy featuring Eugene (the first is Brighton Beach Memoirs and the last is Broadway Bound) is a bit on the long side clocking in at about two hours and 40 minutes with an intermission.

More Information:
Biloxi Blues marches on the Ivoryton Stage at 103 Main Street in Ivoryton through May 14. Performances are Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2 pm, Evenings Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30; Friday and Saturday at 8. Tickets are $50 for adults; $45 for seniors; $22 for students and $17 for children: 860-767-7318; www.ivorytonplayhouse.org

Additional credit:
Costume Design by Lisa Bebey.

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Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)
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