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THEATER REVIEW

‘Biloxi Blues’: All the colors of great theatre

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Terms like coming-of- age and rites-of-passage get used a lot in theatre reviews. But for Las Cruces Community Theatre’s production of “Biloxi Blues,” they are inescapable.

In this play, you see the path opening for budding writer Eugene Morris Jerome and his fellow soldiers in basic training in Biloxi, Mississippi, in 1943. You also see the genius of the late Neil Simon (Aug. 26 will be the first anniversary of his death at age  91) writing about himself in the second of his Eugene Trilogy (along with “Brighton Beach Memoirs” and “Broadway Bound”), continuing to create some of the most memorable characters in American theatre and winning his second playwriting Tony.

Most importantly in this production, you see the maturing talent and rising stars of a group of outstanding young Las Cruces actors guided by one of the finest directors anywhere. And, as with Eugene, you wonder where they will all be in a few years’ time.

Nick Check, who is about to begin his senior year as a theatre student at New Mexico State University, has all the warmth, charm and wit that Simon intended for Jerome. Gus Sanchez, who just graduated from Centennial High School and is about to begin his freshman year as an NMSU theatre student, is perfect as Arnold Epstein. The character is a foil for his fellow soldiers and an important role model for Eugene the writer and the human being. Sanchez pairs brilliantly with Check.

Recent NMSU theatre graduates Calvin Chervinko as Donald Carney and Nicholas Holguin as Joseph Wykowski bring great energy to the show. I was also very impressed with the work of actor Shane Caballero as Private Roy Selridge. Caballero has done a lot of musical theatre, but this is the first time I’ve seen him on stage. He’s quite good. So, too, are recent NMSU graduate Veronica Bissell as the delightful lady of the evening Rowena and NMSU sophomore Brianna Horvath as Daisy Hannigan, Eugene’s first love. Credit also goes to Mario Nuñez in his first performance at LCCT in the small but vital role of James Hennesy.

And theatre veteran Scott Brocato is the archetypal drill sergeant Merwin J. Toomey, adding to his growing repertoire of strong characters and solid performances.

It is an ensemble and all-star cast in a production that Neil Simon is applauding somewhere in that great beyond.

Bravo to director Michael Wise for another outstanding show.

“Biloxi Blues” continues with performances at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Aug. 17-18 and 23-24, and 2 p.m. Sundays, Aug. 18 and 25, at LCCT, 313 N. Main St. For tickets and more information, call LCCT at 575-523-1200. Purchase tickets online at lcctnm.org. 

Mike Cook may be contacted at mike@lascrucesbulletin.com.

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