Publisher: Elizabeth Hurd / Managing Director: Adrienne Proctor / Editor: Jillian Pritchard Ball

“Biloxi Blues” A Credit to CityRep and Theatre OCU

Elizabeth Hurd  Published: March 9th, 2011

Neil Simon, one of America’s most popular playwrights, is considered a master of situational romantic comedy. His most critically acclaimed works begin with his autobiographical trilogy. “Biloxi Blues” is the second of this group, and certainly one of his best works. Published in 1985, the play loosely chronicles Simon’s wartime experience combining all the best elements of humorous dialogue with the challenging interchange between young men as they come of age in wartime conditions.

“Biloxi Blues” is produced in partnership with Theatre OCU. With this partnership, talented students from the University are able to lend their significant talents to the production. Under Director Michael Jones, the entire cast creates memorable and genuine personalities that bring to life the greatest generation poignantly, truthfully and of course, humorously.

One of the nicest elements of this production occurs with the scene changes. Jones uses the understudies to assist the actors for each change. Conducting themselves with military precision, an atmosphere of discipline in a crowded barracks is created. Jones also allows the audience to recognize the valuable contribution of these talented understudies at curtain call.

The young man portraying Eugene Morris Jerome, who clearly represents Simon himself, is Drew Michael Feldman. Feldman’s slightly cocky and definitely assured characterization allows him to easily explore the more sensitive and private aspects of Jerome’s nature. Feldman’s characterization is powerful, perceptive and provides the audience with a comfortable understanding of the situation.

Emilio Velasco as Arnold Epstein is equally versatile and portrays his character with humanity. Oscar J. Kincheloe plays Roy Selridge with nicely pudgy strength. Garrett Henderson creates a very balanced Don Carney and Daryl Bradford is wonderful as the slightly despicable but lovable Joseph Wykowski. The sensitive treatment Justin McInnis gives to James Hennesey maintains an identification of his situation with restraint. These basic characters are a staple of virtually every World War II movie we see today. And yet this group creates an individualistic and unique personality for each young soldier that stands alone.

Another staple is the gruff and tumble typical boot camp Drill Sergeant. Hated and loved simultaneously; the function of the character is to instill character. Ben Hall’s Sgt. Merwin J. Toomey is also his own man, memorable for a performance that sets Toomey apart from the stereotype. Hall has a dynamic with the other performers that binds the story to the audience.

Every self respecting war story has romance; Colleen Marie Daily fills the bill skillfully bringing Jerome’s love Daisy Hannigan to life. But for first experiences he turns to Rowena played by Linda Leonard. Leonard’s delicate and delicious treatment of the young mans first experience is simultaneously warm and chilling.

All in all, this production is not only a credit to Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre; it is a credit to their partner: Theatre OCU.

Each cast member is listed as a candidate for membership in Actors’ Equity Association with the exception of Linda Leonard and Steve Emerson (Toomey understudy) who are already members. With this production candidates display their value to the association professionally. Actors’ Equity Association member and Director Michael Jones as well as Steve Emerson as Production Stage Manager have provided an excellent springboard for the success of these actors.

“Biloxi Blues” can be seen in the CitySpace Theatre at Civic Center Music Hall through March 20, 2011. For ticket information call 405.297.2264 or 800.364.7111 for the Civic Center Box Office or visit https://www.okcciviccenter.org/. To read additional opinions check out Newsok.com.