It's a lot easier to pretend to be brothers with someone when the person with whom you're pretending is, well, actually your brother.
That's the benefit that Marco and Oscar Robinson will share when the FAC Theatre Company opens its 2007-2008 season Friday with its rendition of Brighton Beach Memoirs.
The real-life Robinson brothers will star as the fictional Jerome brothers Marco as Eugene and Oscar as Stanley in Neil Simon's semi-autobiographical story about a Jewish family in a post-Depression, pre-World War II New York City. Also of note: The real-life siblings are of almost exactly the same ages as the characters they'll play.
Alan Osburn, the theatre company's second-year artistic director, who is also directing the play, understands just how fortunate he was that the stars of his production aligned as such.
"As a director, you go, "First of all, can we find two people that are that age, who are even capable of doing this? And then, how are they going to relate to each other as brothers?'" he says. "The fact that [Marco and Oscar] are brothers, and the fact that they are both talented, is great."
Together, Marco and Oscar will attempt to relay the pretty serious story of how one family deals with its financial and familial responsibilities. It's hardly a doom-and-gloom tale, though; it's all served up through the warped eyes of Marco's lead character, and told intimately through his asides to the audience. In that regard, Brighton Beach Memoirs is quite similar to Ferris Bueller's Day Off. (Oddly enough, Ferris Bueller star Matthew Broderick played Eugene in the original Broadway cast in 1983.)
The humor comes through in the fact that Eugene, the audience's guide, is just 15 years old, an aspiring writer who is utterly obsessed with the New York Yankees and is hilariously self-aware of the pubescent journey he is undergoing at the time of the play. To make matters worse or, rather, more entertaining, for the audience he has a crush on his buxom live-in cousin, Nora, and refers to the female genitalia as "the Golden Palace of the Himalayas."
Good and plenty
Marco Robinson's just a 16-year-old high school junior himself.
"It's such an awkward age," he says, laughing nervously. "It's just ... weird."
Marco seems to channel Eugene in his every attempt to explain the character. It's quite remarkable, actually so much so that it's difficult to ascertain whether he's speaking about Eugene or himself at times.
When told this, he laughs.
"Either/or, you know?" he says. "It's all kind of awkward. It's really easy to get in touch with this role."
But how will the teenager who spurned his Pine Creek High School musical to take part in this FAC production fare in the spotlight?
"He's got the goods," Osburn says. "I've worked on Broadway. I know a lot of people on Broadway. I know what it takes to be really good on Broadway. And if he keeps it up, and if his technique guides him as well as his innate talent, then he's really got some potential."
But even with Marco's merits, it's not like Brighton Beach Memoirs is a one-man show. Hardly. Osburn says that the rest of his seven-person cast all "have the goods."
Like his younger brother, Oscar Robinson, actually, is a bit of a wunderkind, too; Brighton Beach Memoirs will be his second stint with the FAC Theatre Company. Last year, he appeared in the company's performances of 1940s Radio Hour.
Osburn says he's been blown away by the way the brothers so effortlessly work with one another.
"They have codes," he explains. "You don't have to build that into the process."
Granted, it helps when you are able to run your lines as you carpool to rehearsal, which the Robinson brothers sheepishly admit to doing.
"This show's gonna be really good," Oscar says. "And just the fact that the audience even knows that we're really brothers, it just gives a whole new dynamic to the show. It's like, "Hey, they really are brothers in real life!' So it's cool."
Now and later
Although Osburn tends to speak in more academic terms, it's fair to say he might deem as "cool" the rest of the FAC's theater season. He feels the company's musical rendition of A Christmas Carol, which opens Nov. 30 and will also feature Marco Robinson, "could conceivably become a holiday tradition" to be performed each year at the FAC's SaGaJi Theatre; he's excited about the idea of performing January's Sunday in the Park with George, which deals with neo-impressionist painter Georges Seurat, inside a fine-art museum; he describes March's Fuddy Meers as an "off the wall" and "wacky" comedy that should ruffle some feathers within this community; and he calls May's Beauty and the Beast a crowd-pleaser and "an opportunity to get everyone in the building."
But before he can tackle any of those, Osburn has to make sure the first project goes off without a hitch. And, at this point, he's confident. Whereas snowstorms and illnesses stalled show rehearsals during Osburn's first year with the FAC, Brighton Beach has been without issue.
"It's like, "Well, OK, I guess we're really ready,'" Osburn says with a smile.
Of course he'd never tell his actors that. Come opening night, Osburn says, he plans on denying any praise he's laid upon his cast and crew in the press.
"No, they don't need to know," he says, laughing. "I'll go into rehearsal and say, "We still have a long way to go.'"
But on this day, two weeks before Friday's opening night, Osburn lets his own satisfaction shine through.
"In this process, I've been surprised with how far along we are," he says. "We're well on our way."
Brighton Beach Memoirs
Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center's SaGaJi Theatre,30 W. Dale St.
Friday, Oct. 12, through Sunday, Oct. 28, various times
Tickets: $24 to $29; call 634-5583 or visit csfineartscenter.org.