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posted: 6/11/2014 5:01 AM

Neil Simon's 'Brighton Beach Memoirs' comes to Elgin

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  • Eric Faler, left, and Sherri Warren appear in the Elgin Theatre Company production of "Brighton Beach Memoirs," a comedy by Neil Simon.

      Eric Faler, left, and Sherri Warren appear in the Elgin Theatre Company production of "Brighton Beach Memoirs," a comedy by Neil Simon.
    Courtesy of Elgin Theatre Company

  • From left, Angela Douglas, Ceci Yasell, and Eric Faler appear in the Elgin Theatre Company production of "Brighton Beach Memoirs." Performances are Friday, June 13 through June 29 in Elgin.

      From left, Angela Douglas, Ceci Yasell, and Eric Faler appear in the Elgin Theatre Company production of "Brighton Beach Memoirs." Performances are Friday, June 13 through June 29 in Elgin.
    Courtesy of Elgin Theatre Company

 
By Lauren Rohr
lrohr@dailyherald.com

Eric Faler is a 17-year-old high school graduate. He shaves his face. He is old enough to drive. He will be heading off to college in the fall.

But starting Friday, June 13, Faler said he has to let go of any adult instincts he may have and revert to his 15-year-old self.

Faler, of Sleepy Hollow, will play witty, confused 15-year-old Eugene Jerome in the Elgin Theatre Company's production of "Brighton Beach Memoirs." The play, written by Neil Simon, is the first part of an autobiographical trilogy that takes place in 1937, as the Great Depression is ongoing and World War II looms ahead. The character of Eugene, based on Simon during his coming-of-age years, lives with his parents in Brooklyn and has to deal with his extended family and his own physical awakening.

"The play is basically individual monologues spun together, and the cracks are filled with the goings-on in the house," Faler said.

Though he had a lot of lines to memorize, Faler said the hardest part for him was acting younger than he actually is.

"I have to go back to when I was going through puberty," he said. "It's harder to become younger because you have to forget things about being an adult."

Director Chris Warren said one of the most difficult parts of directing the play was finding the right cast, especially because four of the main characters in the play are younger than 19. He had to reach out to local high schools and other theater companies to find actors who could play younger roles.

Faler said he was contacted to audition in March, when he was acting in the TownSquare Player's production of "The Wedding Singer" in Woodstock. He auditioned for the part of Eugene, got the part and immediately accepted.

"This is a play I really work in," Faler said. "I like (Eugene's) sass."

He added he and other cast members held extra rehearsals to grasp the chemistry needed for "Brighton Beach Memoirs," because the characters in the play are all family.

"(The actors) aren't all from the same place with the same way of thinking about acting," Faler said. "So when you're working with them, you have to adapt to the way they work, and they have to adapt a little bit to the way you work."

Warren said about four years ago, he ran into Linda Collins and Edward Duncan, ETC board members and producers of "Brighton Beach Memoirs," and he suggested bringing the play to ETC. When they decided to add the play to the schedule this past year, Warren said he jumped at the opportunity to direct it.

"I don't direct much. I'm much more of a performer myself, but I just loved the piece, and I thought more people should be familiar with it," Warren said. "I'm bringing what I feel is (Simon's) best work to a larger audience."

Though it is a touching story, he said, audience members can expect to laugh a lot.

"It's a very heartwarming family story," Warren said.

The cast also includes Andrew Ross of Carpentersville, Sheri Warren of McHenry, Angela Douglas of Algonquin, Steven Michalak of Elgin, Shannon Jameson of Algonquin, Ceci Yasell of South Barrington and Natalie Warren of McHenry.

"Brighton Beach Memoirs" will open Friday, June 13, and performances will be held on the weekends until June 29. Performances will be at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays at the Elgin Academy's Kimball Street Theater in the H. Rider Center in downtown Elgin.

Tickets are $15, $12 for youths and seniors. For more information, visit elgin-theatre.org, email tickets@inil.com or call (847) 741-0532.

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