‘Biloxi Blues’ authentic, funny, well-done
Special to Prospector
“Biloxi Blues” runs at the Nevada Theatre June 3- 25. Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m, Sunday June 12 at 2 p.m, Thursday June 23 at 7 p/m, and a Saturday matinée, June 25 at 2 p.m.. Tickets are $20 in advance and $22 the day of the show. They are available at Harmony Books in Nevada City, The Bookseller in Grass Valley, on-line at legacypresents.com or by calling (530) 268-5419. The Nevada Theatre is located at 401 Broad St. in Nevada City. Doors open a half hour before showtime.
I really, really enjoyed Legacy Productions funny, snarky, dark-humored and intelligent presentation of Neil Simon’s “Biloxi Blues.”
This play is the second of Neil Simon’s semi-autobiographical trilogy. Legacy presented the first play, “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” last year. “Biloxi Blues” had its world premiere in Los Angeles in 1984, then opened on Broadway in March 1985, winning a Tony Award for best play.
The play is based on Simon’s own Army experiences and takes place throughout 10-weeks of basic training in Biloxi, Mississippi during World War II. The people and interactions are seen through the eyes of Eugene Jerome, a young Jewish virgin and aspiring writer, on his first trip away from home.
Eugene has three goals during his military service; to survive the war, become a writer and loose his virginity, not necessarily in that order. At the end of the play, we are told he survives the war and becomes a writer, but we are humorously shown how he loses his virginity to a prostitute and falls in love with a young Catholic woman.
The other five soldiers in Eugene’s barracks run the gamut of personal characteristics, from intelligent to not, from compassionate to aggressive. All are badgered by a brash, driven, slightly crazed drill sergeant whose goal is to make first-rate soldiers out of these idiosyncratic recruits, while perhaps taking them down a notch. The sergeant particularly has it in for a second Jewish soldier, bright and rebellious Arnold Epstein, and much of both the comedy and reality arises from their on-going clash.
Simon’s soldiers’ language, behaviors and their topics of conversation are extremely well-written and believable. Although each of the characters is somewhat stereotyped, if you’ve been in the military, you will recognize all of them. However, there is a surprising lack of a four letter word that begins with ‘f’ that normally would be liberally used by soldiers. But do note that sufficient other words and comments are raunchy and possibly too adult — even though extremely funny — for those younger than 14 (or maybe 8, depending upon their peer group).
Director Alvis LeGate elicits fine performances from his actors and creates a fluid, credible ensemble. All of the actors are very convincing, both in their own persona and in their interactions with the other performers. Particularly impressive is Kris Meadows as Sergeant Toomey, with his thrust jaw, aggressive stance and demanding voice. Chase Coney initially portrays Eugene as a wide-eyed naif, but gradually exhibits, through body language and tone, more maturity.
Darryl Stines clever set, where the railroad car used in the first and last scenes becomes the barracks’ walls, and Sharon Sciabica’s effective military and period costumes contribute nicely to the authenticity of the play.
I hadn’t previously seen this particular Neil Simon play and am glad I now have, especially as well done as this production is. It’s funny, at times in-your-face, sometimes surprising, and a good entertainment with a dash of darkness. Enjoy it at the Nevada Theatre through June 25.
Years ago, Hindi Greenberg worked as a civilian with the Army in Germany and can attest that the characters, relationships and language in Simon’s play are extremely authentic (except for the lack of a certain four letter word, which used to repeatedly sear her naive Minnesota sensibilities). She knew each of these guys in one incarnation or another.
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