DeWitt Two aspiring actresses from Fayetteville-Manlius High School exude chutzpah galore as dissimilar sisters in “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” the Neil Simon comedy-drama now on stage at CNY Playhouse at DeWitt’s Shoppingtown Mall.
Erin Griffin, an F-M junior, portrays Nora, a 16-year-old spitfire who dreams of dancing on Broadway, while Zoe Miller, an F-M freshman, plays younger sister Laurie, sickly yet sharp-as-a-tack.
The sisters and their asthmatic, widowed mother, Blanche, are longtime houseguests of their Uncle Jack and Aunt Kate and cousins Stanley and Eugene. Another talented teenager, Josh Hintz, a senior at Corcoran High School, excels as Eugene Morris Jerome, the self-described scapegoat of his lower-middle-class family struggling to survive the Great Depression.
Often speaking directly to the audience in asides as the action unfolds in the family’s humble Brooklyn walk-up, 15-year-old Eugene reveals his distaste for liver and cabbage, obsession with the New York Yankees and his innermost fantasies involving Nora’s breasts.
Director Dan Rowlands – who fulfills a lifetime desire to stage “Brighton Beach Memoirs” (be sure to read his nostalgic program note) – filled out the cast with two experienced actors and two actresses new to the CNY Playhouse stage.
The ever-reliable Keith Arlington plays Jack, the overworked head of the household. A veteran of the Syracuse Shakespeare Festival, Arlington knows how to sculpt and shape a character. His Jack carries the weight of the world on his shoulders, even anticipating the upheaval to come in World War II, but – when it’s necessary to hold his family together – he communicates warmth and wisdom.
One of Syracuse’s emerging new talents, Justin Polly portrays Eugene’s older brother, Stanley, who gets fired from a haberdashery. Often featured in comedic roles, Polly gets a chance to display impressive range in “Brighton Beach,” especially in Act 2 when Stanley shames his family when he gambles away his week’s pay and ponders joining the Army.