Is this the season of Neil Simon? New Vision Theatre at the Sunshine Brooks theatre in Oceanside opened Biloxi Blues. Part of a semi-autobiographical trilogy, which also included Brighton Beach Memoirs and Broadway Bound, Biloxi Blues covers the first eight weeks in boot camp circa 1943.
Director Jerry Pilato, along with producer Jerry Pilato, created a realistic barracks set with a series of move-in sets which include a train-car section, latrine area, a sleazy hotel bedroom, and other minor areas. Yolanda Kalb provided costuming ranging from the military garb to ladies’ apparel, both for a sweet innocent look to brothel gaudy.
Setting the mood is a collection of black and white WWII news clips projected on a small screen beside the stage. They also mask some of the longer set changes along with music of the period.
We feel much of the action through the commentary of Eugene (Desmond Hassing). As a storyteller/narrator Hassing is excellent; however, during some of the more emotional scenes, especially with Daisy (Amanda Lamson) and Rowena (Lisa Wismer), he seemed to be telling the story rather than living it. Rowena, a quicky weekend prostitute, is charming in her way with first-timer Eugene. Daisy becomes his first love and his first kiss. They certainly make a perfect couple.
Back at the barracks is one Sgt. Toomey (Sean Vernon). To those of us who have survived boot camp, Toomey is a perfect stereotypical drill sergeant. Vernon made my skin crawl with 5-year-old memories. Accolades to him for being so accurate.
Simon populated the barracks with the usual guys. Epstein (Peter Schwartz) is a bit on the sensitive side and wants nothing to do with the military. Carney (Phillip Jerge) has aspirations of being a crooner. Alas, he goes flat. Wykowski (Aaron Derwin) is an irritant with his own insecurities. Each of the others, Selridge (Brad Steffens) and Hennessey (Edward Tincu) have their vulnerabilities, which they try to hide. Just a group of young kids about to go to war. The group provide an accurate cross-section of
a typical basic training unit.
Biloxi Blues is worth checking out. You’ll easily learn to have a true dislike for Sergeant Toomey as well as an understanding of the group of recruits. Adding the WWII news footage was a nice touch.
Brad Steffens, Aaron Derwin, Desmond Hassing, Phillip Jerge, Peter Schwartz, Sean Vernon, Edward Tincu, Lisa Wismer, Amanda Lamson
SM Nate Cargill, Costume Design Yolanda Kalb, Set Designers John Kalb & Jerry Pilato, Techs Generra Singleton & Hayley Gillen, Film Execution Peter Schwartz & Jerry Pilato, Film Operator Anthony Billing
Author: Neil Simon
Director: Jerry Pilato
Date Reviewed: September 28, 2007
Running Time: 147 minutes with a 15-minute intermission
Dates: Weekends, October 28 thru October 14, 2007
Caution Guidance: Adult situations and language
New Vision Theatre Company – an Independent Theatre
Sunshine Brooks Theatre
217 Coast Highway
Box Office Phone (760) 529-9140 Running Time