Our Current 2018-2019 Season:

Our Current 2018-2019 Season:

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Jack Jerome Interviews Tony Targan: An Inside Look at Brighton Beach Memoirs

Jack Jerome (left) interviews Tony Targan (right) about Tony's portrayal of Jack
In Neil Simon’s Brighton Beach Memoirs, the patriarch of the household is Jack Jerome, an empathetic character who works two jobs to support his family. With four teenagers, his wife, and his widowed sister-in-law under one roof, it’s challenging, to say the least.  When his son Stanley says, “Pop, I have a problem,” Jack replies, “If you didn’t, you wouldn’t live in this house.”   I recently sat down to talk to Jack, but he quickly turned the tables on me, making me the subject of my own interview! ­­­

Tony:   Jack, I have to tell you that is a real pleasure to portray you in the Farmington Players’ production of Brighton Beach Memoirs.

Jack:    It’s not as easy as it looks, is it?

Tony:    That’s true.  It’s challenging to play a character that is weary and physically ailing most of the time, and yet has to project such energy, emotion, and anger.

Jack:     Yeah, well, you seem to have the anger part down pretty good.  That’s quite a temper you’ve got.

Tony:    As my mother Arleen once told me, “You’ve got a lot of patience … until it runs out.”

Jack:     Patience is not one of our virtues, my friend.

Tony:    I can relate.  It’s hard dealing with four teenagers and two middle-aged sisters under one roof.  And yet Jack finds a way to commiserate with everything his family is going through.  As Jack often says, “I know what it’s like.”  Your empathy is very genuine.

Jack:     You have to strive to set a good example, but also give your family – and yourself – permission not to be perfect.

Tony:    Well said.

Jack:     So, Tony, tell me how you go about connecting with my character?  

Tony:    When I talk about Jack’s brother Michael, who died in the war, I hold his Army picture.  I decided to make it more personal by using an actual photo of my father Barry when he was a young Army private during the Korean War.

Jack:     Nice touch.   Did other family members influence your character’s development?

Tony:   I like to model Jack after my grandfather Albert Targan.  A Russian Jew, he emigrated here in the early 1900s, and was orphaned at a young age.  Despite little schooling, he worked hard as a grocer to provide for his family – a wife and three boys – and he knew that education was their way to a better life.  Both my uncles served in the Navy in World War Two, and both went on to become lawyers. My father has a PhD in English Literature and is a writer and retired college professor.

Jack:    Besides family, what other themes of Brighton Beach Memoirs are still relevant today?

Tony:   In the play, Jack worries about his European relatives on the eve of WWII, saying, “If you’re Jewish, you’ve got a cousin suffering somewhere in the world.”  America has always been a safe haven.  If my grandparents and other Jewish relatives did not escape Eastern Europe to seek asylum in America, none of my family would be alive today.  We are a nation of immigrants, most of whom came to America to flee persecution or seek religious freedom.  And yet many people still want to bar the door to new immigrants, or have prejudices against anyone who is different than themselves.

Jack:   Last question:  The Jerome family lives in Brooklyn in 1937.  Like many families during the Great Depression, we were poor and had our share of family drama.  What makes our family so special that people will want to come see Brighton Beach Memoirs?

Tony:   Brighton Beach Memoirs is a semi-autobiographical reflection on the life of its author, the recently departed Neil Simon.  The structure of the play is compelling as the young Eugene Jerome narrates his dreams and desires directly to the audience in comedic fashion.  The family dynamic pits spouses and siblings against each other, and yet, despite all the strain, the family’s ties are ultimately strengthened.  It’s a poignant family drama … Plus, it’s just a really funny show!

Brighton Beach Memoirs has 3 remaining performances at the Farmington Players Barn Theater from October 11 – 13.  The show is proudly sponsored by Mall Malisow & Cooney.  Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by emailing boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or calling the Barn box office at 248-553-2955.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Pamela Martin Finds Beauty in Kate’s Vulnerability in Brighton Beach Memoirs

Kate (Pamela Martin, right) has a complicated relationship with her sister Blanche (Nancy Cooper, left)
as husband Jack (Tony Targan) tries to keep the peace.
PHOTO by Paul Manoian

The famous Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw once wrote, “Those who can, do; those who can't, teach.”   With all due respect to Mr. Shaw, he never saw Pamela Martin act!   Pamela has been teaching drama since 1991 as a Drama Specialist at Cranbrook Schools, Brookside Elementary.  And if you see her performance in Brighton Beach Memoirs at the Farmington Players, you will know right away that she can definitely act!  Pamela’s character Kate Jerome is the wife of Jack Jerome, the sister of Blanche, the aunt of Nora and Laurie, and the mother to Eugene and Stanley.   As Pamela says, “I truly enjoy playing Kate because she is a very formidable Jewish mother who really has a deep care and concern for her family. She is a ‘workhorse’ and she is very tightly wound. Above all, she wants to keep the peace.  She is a problem solver who tries to tackle every family issue and tries to fix all of the family problems.”  And in the Jerome family, there are plenty of problems to fix!  As Kate so eloquently puts it, “you inherit a family, you inherit their problems.”

Family is the central theme of Brighton Beach Memoirs.  Pamela sees Kate as strong, yet vulnerable, when dealing with each family member.   As she observes, “There is a theme of dignity for each character. The collective dignity must be brought together. It is the family.  Kate is the protector and lioness yet she is very vulnerable. There is a beauty to Kate’s vulnerability. I can see myself in Kate from the outside as having a rather tightly wound disposition at times but inside, I too have a great love for my family and I can also be quite vulnerable.”  This vulnerability really comes out in her scenes with her younger sister Blanche, played by Nancy Cooper.   Pamela says that Kate has “a special yet complicated relationship with her younger sister, Blanche. My challenge with playing Kate is that I need to balance her frustration and control with her great love, compassion and understanding and give the audience a glance as to why Kate is Kate.”

Pamela has always loved Brighton Beach Memoirs and Neil Simon is one of her favorite playwrights:  “The way he builds a scene -- one moment you are laughing hysterically the next you are wiping away tears -- pure perfection. Also, I like the fact that this was an autobiographical play based on Neil Simon’s own family. (He being the Eugene role of course.)” Audiences also love the show because “there is something that will resonate with everyone. Whether it be a character, scene, monologue, or dramatic pause, Mr. Simon’s work is brilliant.  Brighton Beach is as much relevant today as it was back in 1937 because it is about family.  And as Kate says, “This is a family. The world cannot survive without families.”   Pamela has enjoyed connecting with her new Barn family as well:  “I am thrilled to be a member of the Farmington Players family and I adore acting with my very talented Brighton Beach family.  I hope everyone enjoys the show!”

Brighton Beach Memoirs has 7 remaining performances at the Farmington Players Barn Theater through October 13.  The show is proudly sponsored by Mall Malisow & Cooney.  Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by emailing boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or calling the Barn box office at 248-553-2955.