Audience members filled the Black Box Theater with roars of laughter on Valentine’s Day during the most recent production by the Valencia College Theater, Brighton Beach Memoirs.
The Neil Simon comedy, which takes place in 1973 Brooklyn, New York, dives into the “mundane” family life of high-schooler Eugene, as he dreams “of baseball and girls” as described by the Valencia College Theater.
Jeremiah Wood, who plays Eugene, is a Theater major at Valencia and has been in three of Valencia’s productions. Wood, 19, has been acting since he was in seventh grade, with his first role being Flounder in The Little Mermaid. It wasn’t until high school that Wood fell in love with acting and knew his dream was to be in entertainment.
“My favorite part about playing Eugene is that he is a protagonist whose journey is fun to experience, both as the actor playing the part and as an audience member watching the show,” Wood said, “being able to step in and out of the play by breaking the fourth wall and speaking directly to the audience is a very interesting challenge that is a great test for any skilled actor.”
Throughout the play, Eugene often speaks directly to the audience when he reads aloud his diary, resulting in lines that Wood described as having “shock-value.”
“Eugene had such different lines from the other actors,” Christian Garcia, a former Valencia student who saw the show on opening night, said, “he was really funny and relatable.”
Yesiana Nelson, student actor and Psychology major at Valencia, plays Eugene’s widowed aunt, Blanche Morton.
“Discovering things about Blanche was really fun. I [her character] am supposed to be 38 but I’m actually like 20, so it’s a little difficult trying to be an adult,” Nelson said, “My favorite thing about acting, in general, is character work and discovering new things about the character.”
Nelson has done musical theater and tech crew for five to six years and has performed in Valencia’s fall production of Aida, however, Brighton Beach Memoirs is her first straight play (one that does not include music).
Stage Manager, Hope Griffin, stated, “The more [the actors] practiced the more they get used to their lines, they just become more comfortable… they’re able to actually focus on the character.”
Griffin’s role is to oversee rehearsals and performances while bridging the gap between artistic and technical aspects of production, as she describes it.
“With every show I’ve done, my favorite part has been meeting new people and working with new people,” Griffin said.
The Valencia College Theater will be showcasing three more performances of the show at the East Campus Performing Arts Center starting Thursday, February 20 through Saturday, February 22 at 7:30 p.m. Valencia students and employees can purchase discounted tickets online or at the box office for $12, while general admission is $15.