Theater: Speak, Memory


In most of his previous works, Neil Simon has parried the perils of heart-to-heart emotional commitment with a disarming quip. A loose upper lip has been his tactic for keeping pain in quarantine. With an ironclad consistency, he has been the Man in the Comic Mask.

The endearing aspect of Brighton Beach Memoirs is that the mask has slipped a little. Without slighting his potent comic gifts, Simon looks back, not in anger, remorse or undue guilt but with fondly nourished compassion, at himself as an adolescent in 1937 and at the almost asphyxiatingly close-knit family around...

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