Greg Gedert (left) of Dearborn as Eugene Jerome writes in his journal while on his way to basic training in Neil Simon’s “Biloxi Blues.” Also in the cast are Marc Walentowicz (second from left) of Garden City as Joseph Wykowski, Christopher Fraser of Dearborn Heights as Arnold Epstein, Patrick Coon of Westland as Roy Selridge, and Logan Frizzell of Redford as Don Carney.
By SUE SUCHYTA
The Dearborn Heights Civic Theatre is back to basics – training, that is, as Greg Gedert of Dearborn delights audiences by reprising the role of Eugene Jerome in the second of Neil Simon’s semi-autobiographical trilogy “Biloxi Blues.”
The show will be performed through Saturday at the Berwyn Center, 26155 Richardson in Dearborn Heights. For more information go to www.dhctstage.org or visit the group’s Facebook page.
Director Valerie Haas of Inkster, who played Eugene’s mother, Kate, in “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” the first show in the trilogy, said she wanted to direct the second show now while Gedert was still young enough to play the role. She also hopes to reprise the role of Kate if the DHCT does the third show in the trilogy, the post-war “Broadway Bound.”
“Biloxi Blues” follows Eugene Jerome through basic training in Biloxi, Mississippi in 1943 as the United States drafted new recruits to fight its enemies in the Pacific and in Europe.
Gedert, who first played 15-year-old Eugene Jerome in DHCT’s “Brighton Beach Memoirs” a year ago, has taken the likable character from an irrepressible teenager to a young man who is still naïve but wiser than the Eugene we last saw on stage.
As Eugene humorously chronicles boot camp in his memoir journal, Gedert brings the character to life with his endearing and entertaining style. His self-effacing delivery is both funny and engaging.
If the show took place today, 68 years later, Eugene would probably be a blogger bound for Afghanistan or the Middle East, and it’s unlikely he would know as little about sex as he did in an era before the Internet, cable and easy-access porn.
The period nature of the play provides the charm of an era when enemies were easier to identify and life, although far from fair and light years from politically correct, was like the movies: mostly black and white with fewer moral shades of gray.
Phillip Booth of Dearborn is also a standout as Sergeant Toomey, a seemingly sadistic platoon leader who has to prepare a bunch of raw recruits to survive wartime conditions. Although the methods seem like madness, they serve a purpose by creating a team of soldiers out of raw recruits.
Booth is funny and spot on in his timing and earns his share of laughter.
Arnold Epstein, played by Christopher Fraser of Dearborn Heights, also is entertaining as the draftee determined to defy Toomey’s attempts to break his will.
Mark Walentowicz of Garden City has fun with the role of Wykowski, a bigoted, muscle-bound knucklehead who seems remarkably well-suited for the life of a foot soldier.
Patrick Coon of Westland plays Roy Selridge, Wykowski’s crude crony with believability. He also is the technical director.
Logan Frizzell of Redford is amusing a Don Carney, who has a hard time making up his mind about anything, while Barret Kaltz of Dearborn is convincing as James Hennessy, a quiet guy who tricks Wykowski into revealing his bigotry.
Meredith Ferry of Allen Park is delightfully entertaining in a cameo role as Rowena, a patient prostitute who helps Eugene lose his inhibitions and virginity. Her dialogue is both subtly witty and droll as she guides Eugene through a recruit’s rite of passage.
June Delgreco of Dearborn Heights is sweet as Daisy, the Catholic schoolgirl with whom Jewish Jerome falls in love.
Kirk Haas of Inkster, the director’s husband, cleverly designed the set’s barrack trunks to form the crowded train car as the recruits journey to and from Biloxi.
The show is produced by Amanda McFarland, with Debbie Fraser as the assistant to the director.
The show contains adult themes and sexuality explicit language, and parents are strongly cautioned. For more information, go to www.dhctstage.org.
DHS PRESENTs BOTH VERSIONS OF ‘THE ODD COUPLE’
Dearborn High School’s theater department will launch its season by offering both the male and female versions of Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple” during alternating nights Wednesday through Saturday.
The show will run at 7:30 p.m., with each cast presenting its version of the comedy on two separate nights. The group plans to offer a discount to encourage audience members to attend both shows.
What happens when a neat freak moves in with a slob? Comedy and chaos ensue when a sloppy, laid back sportswriter lets a seriously depressed, neurotic friend move in with them when their spouse serves them with divorce papers.
Senior Tim Smith will lead the male version of the cast as Oscar Madison, a sloppy sportswriter, with junior Connor Blankenship playing neurotic neat freak Felix Ungar.
The poker buddies include junior Kyle Tillman as Roy and sophomores Nader Berry as Murray the cop, Joe Read as Speed and Austin Clark as Vinnie.
Juniors Lindsay Culp and Katie Polidori will respectively play Gwendolyn and Cecily, the delightfully ditsy Pigeon sisters.
Senior Camille Charara will lead the female cast as messy Olive Madison, while senior Bella Fothergill will play the compulsive cleaner Florence Ungar.
The Trival Pursuit pals include sophomore Jordan DiGregorgio as Mickey the cop, and seniors Juliet Higgins as Sylvie, Marie Wolski as Renee and Kelley Thierry as Vera.
Juniors Westley Montgomery and Frankie Nunez will play Jesus (pronounced “hay-zeus,” which becomes part of a running gag) and Manolo, the Costazuela brothers.
ORIGINAL HIP HOP ENERGIZES HFCC’S ‘SLEEPING BEAUTY’
Henry Ford Community College opened its annual theater production for young audiences, “Sleeping Beauty,” last Friday.
The show energizes audiences with the preshow rap “Sleep” written for the production by cast member Asia Robbinson of Detroit, and performed by the cast with original hip hop choreography created by cast member Joanna Graham of Westland.
The show will run weekends through Nov. 20, with 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday shows and 2 p.m. Sunday matinees in the Adray Auditorium in the MacKenzie Fine Arts Center.
School matinees are at 10 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday for the three week run.
The annual theater for young audiences offering is performed during the week for school groups to introduce local elementary and middle school students to live theater.
Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for students with school identification and $6 for children 12 and under. Groups of 10 or more pay $5 per seat.
For tickets or more information call (313) 845-9817 or email [email protected]
The women in the cast include Courtney Butterfield of Redford Township, Shauna Hazime of Dearborn Heights, and Asia Robbinson, India Jackson and Betty L. Daniels of Detroit.
Other women in the cast include Danya Talab and Samantha York of Dearborn, Andrea Wells-Preister of Allen Park, Sabrina Loving of Romulus and Joanna Graham of Westland.
The male cast members include Robert Gray of Redford Township, Adam Kamrad of Dearborn, Joey Kulza of Brownstown Township, Dominic Lomuscio of Dearborn Heights and Tim Pollock of Wyandotte.
Other men in the cast include Detroit residents Drake Highgate, Kirk Marcellus Hogan, London Johnson, Kahrah Noel and Vic Angelo Offutt.
PLAYERS GUILD PRESENTS ‘WIZARD OF OZ’
The Players Guild of Dearborn will perform the musical “The Wizard of Oz” for four weekends, Nov. 11 to Dec. 4 at the Players Guild of Dearborn, 21730 Madison in Dearborn. For more information call (313) 561-TKTS or go to www.playersguildofdearborn.org.