(Church Hill Theatre) Nothing chases away the winter doldrums like the heat and hilarity of Biloxi Blues, one of Neil Simon’s funniest comedies. Based on Simon’s own memories of boot camp in Mississippi during World War II, the play finds humor in the coming of age experiences of young draftees way outside their comfort zones. As members of the Greatest Generation rapidly leave us, it’s good to remember that our fathers and grandfathers probably were once just as rowdy, randy and rambunctious as the guys Simon served with. Michael Whitehill, who directed last season’s most serious drama (Doubt), shows he’s equally adept with the fast paced verbal exchanges and physical humor that make Biloxi Blues so much fun. His cast has obviously enjoyed the chance to inhabit Simon’s memorable characters.
While our forebears of course never cursed, these soldiers do! They also engage in activities not included in letters home to their mothers. Older teens might learn some useful lessons about the transition to adulthood but this show is not recommended for elementary and middle school students.
John Haas, often a “good guy” in CHT plays, takes on the role of Sgt. Merwin J. Toomey, the drill instructor who finds sadistic pleasure in breaking young men to mold them into his kind of soldier. Troy Strootman plays Eugene Morris Jerome, a bookish youth based loosely on Simon himself. Robbie Spray, last seen at CHT as the murderous Leonard Vole in Witness for the Prosecution, portrays Arnold Epstein, a draftee who is Toomey’s mentally tough nemesis. The other soldiers in the barracks are Anthony Daly as Roy Selridge, Timothy Daly as Joseph Wykowski, Morgan Jung as Don Carney, and Jeff Rank as James Hennesey. Since soldiers spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about women, Biloxi Blues gives us a couple of archetypes. Kendell Irene Davis plays Daisy Hannigan, the sweet young woman every soldier dreams of coming home to and Christine Kinlock plays Rowena, a woman with no last name but quite a past. Interestingly, both actresses played opposite types in the recent production of Witness for the Prosecution. The cast is rounded out with Scarlett Chappell, playing a Junior Hostess at a USO dance.
Michael Whitehill has assembled an experienced and creative production team for Biloxi Blues. Sylvia Maloney pulls together the before-the-show-opens details as Producer and Steve Atkinson wrangles the behind-the-scenes details as Stage Manager. Working with Designer Brian Draper, Whitehill designed and constructed the set. Once again, Douglas Kaufmann, the master of the light booth, put together the lighting plot. Laura Crabtree, Katie Sardo, Wendy Sardo, and Janice Selby complete the back stage team.
Biloxi Blues at Church Hill Theatre runs through February 4,2018. 8 pm on Friday and Saturday and 2 pm on Sunday. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for students, with special prices for groups of ten or more. CHT offers 2 for the price of 1 tickets on opening night, Friday, January 19, to those who reserve by phone. Reservations can be made by calling the box office at 410-556-6003 or online at www.churchhilltheatre.org