by Margaret Croyden
Margaret Croyden is a theater reviewer and essayist for the New York Theatre Wire.
Brighton Beach Memoirs.
By Neil Simon
This has been a strange season indeed. Shows close unexpectedly, shows are postponed unexpectedly, and actors are thrown out of work without much notice. Several excellent productions have been the victim of this crazy pattern. The first I am going to discuss is "Brighton Beach Memoirs" and next time,"Ragtime" and "Finians Rainbow," all potential hits, all closed suddenly despite good reviews.
One needn't explain who Neil Simon is, or discuss his great comedies. Neil simon has been a fixture on Broadway for fifty years, and has never been a failure. He has made us laugh, cry, talk, and long for more, and to top it off he can create nostalgia like no playwright can. And this play was nostalgic nostalgia--especially for me. I grew up in Brooklyn not far from Brighton Beach. We went there every summer to swim, lie in the sun and walk the boardwalk. My sisters and I were addicted to the area, especially the hot dogs and the general ambiance. I come from that kind of Jewish family, so any story about Brighton was something I wanted to see. And to top it all off, it was done beautifully: splendid casting, great direction, and good reviews. But what happened? Before the play could even play for one week, the closing notice was up. This was a three day closing. Nothing was done to promote the work, nothing was told to the public. Bang it was over. (though some critics saw it in preview). Never mind, the man had been around for fifty years with success after success and yet nothing was done to save the production. No reason was given. Not enough advance sale, they said. Why not? Why was it not promoted? Bang. It just disappeared.
Rumors floated around. No box office sale, the producers had no money to keep it going. But none of the reasons made sense. Nobody tried to promote the show.
Some people chimed there was too much nostalgia for a time that was long gone. Some said Neil Simon was old hat. The irony of it all was that soon after, Neil Simon was one of the recipients of the yearly Kennedy Center Awards. And this almost at the same time that the play closed. Now that's a subject for another play. But not a comedy of course.
Margaret Croyden's new book will be published in the spring: "The Years In Between: A Reporter's Journey World War ll--The Cold War"
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