Biloxi Blues 370.
(photo credit: Courtesy PR)
Eugene Morris Jerome (Tom Avni) wants three things when he boards the train for
boot-camp in Biloxi, Mississippi in 1943: to be an author, to stay alive and to
lose his virginity. He starts on number one by keeping a diary, accomplishes the
second because the play is a kind of flashback, and succeeds, despite himself,
with number three.
Biloxi Blues is the second in Neil Simon’s
semi-autobiographical Gene trilogy that includes Brighton Beach Memoirs and
Broadway Bound. It is a wry, compassionate coming of age comedy that succeeds
because it judges neither the characters nor the situations, attributes that the
production wonderfully reflects.
Events are staged as a series of framed
portraits, moments of memory held forever against Sasha Lisianky’s versatile set
of bald frames and planks that is train, bootcamp, latrines or
And although Gene narrates, the play centers around Arnold
Epstein, a fellow Jew in this strange environment, sickly, obstinate, given to
rare flashes of ironic humor and determined to retain his individualism in an
organization equally determined to suppress it. Skinny, bespectacled Tom Hagi
plays Epstein with a desperate, nerdy courage that reaches its apex when he must
confront sadistic Sgt. Toomey, their drill instructor. Ron Bitterman portrays
him with gleeful, jaw-thrust-out pugnacity, and an unexpected, sudden
Epstein even gains his fellow rookies’ respect, played
with verve and appealing boyishness – after all, the lot of them are just out of
kid-hood – by Itay Polishik as wannabe tough-guy Wikowski, Oren Cohen as Carney,
who dreams of stardom, Eliran Harus as lonely Hennessy and Ori Mazki as born
There are only two women in the play: part-time whore
Rowena to whom Adva Adani imparts a deliciously brisk practicality and
impeccable comic timing, and Daisy Hannigan, Gene’s first love. Gene, always the
observer, rarely involved, could easily be a prig, but Avni avoids that
His Gene is an ardent innocent compelled by the times swiftly to
Inbar Danon’s Daisy is an innocent too. Their scene together is
a little gem. Just like the production.