‘Brighton Beach,’ an endearing play

A heartwarming look at a family struggling to make ends meet in 193​7​, Act Inc.'s "Brighton Beach Memoirs" effectively wrings all the comedy and drama out of Neil Simon's semi-autobiographical play.

Director Emily Jones superbly set the tone and moods. The characters, who resonate in any era, are realistically brought to life by a​ strong ​cast.

In a ​noteworthy​ ​professional ​debut, Zac O'Keefe captures all the angst and frustrations of a precocious 15-year-old boy, aspiring writer Eugene Jerome.​ He's the heart of the piece, breaking the fourth wall with wit and charm.​

His close-knit relationship with his older brother, Stan​ley​, is​ moving​, and Evan Fornachon creates a complete portrait​ of the 18-year-old with the weight of the world on his shoulders, a dutiful son who tells Eugene about the facts of life. O'Keefe and Fornachon convey a genuine brotherly kinship.

Chuck Brinkley and Kimberly Sansone perfectly embody the parents, Jack and Kate, blue-collar Polish Jews in Depression-era Brooklyn, living in an immigrant neighborhood in Brighton Beach.

Kate's widowed sister Blanche and her two daughters live there, too. Mary Pat Dailey and Natalie Krivokuca are memorable as the teen girls, and Susan Kopp is impressive as vision-impaired seamstress Blanche.​

The ​scenic coordinator Jason Flannery ​successfully ​recreate​d​ a crowded home of that era, while Wesley Jenkins' costume design aptly depicted the modest period clothes. ​

The humor includes frank puberty talk. The dramatic conflicts are engrossing to make this a rich period piece that is easily relatable.

Simon's play, the first of the "Eugene Trilogy" followed by “Biloxi Blues” and “Broadway Bound,” debuted in 1983. Act Inc.'s warm portrait of a family trying to survive in tough times, narrated by an aspiring dreamer, is endearing in the manner it is supposed to — benefitting from an appealing cast.

"Brighton Beach Memoirs"

  • Who: Act Inc.
  • When: 8 p.m. Saturday, June 25 and 2 p.m. Sunday, June 26
  • Where: J. Scheidegger Center for the Arts, ​Emerson Black Box Theatre​, Lindenwood University campus, St. Charles
  • Information: Box Office: 636-949-4433 or www.actincstl.com