Village finds ‘Lost in Yonkers’

  • By Dale Burrows For The Enterprise
  • Tuesday, March 9, 2010 9:52pm

Ordinarily, reminiscence is the province of narration. In this case, major playwright Neil Simon blueprinted one for stage; and Village applied to the blueprint the big, bright, bold, Broadway magic that Simon is known for and they are becoming known for.

Comedy, drama, insight and relevance are the targets this “Lost in Yonkers” sets its sights on. Fondness for life is the bull’s eye it scores.

The place is grandma’s apartment above her ice-cream and candy store, Yonkers, 1942. America is at war. Mom is dead. Dad took a job traveling and left his two teenaged sons with grandma.

The perspective is that of the two sons, years later reflecting back on the year they spent with grandma, what they said and did then and what it means in retrospect.

What makes this home world in time of war work is the magnified look at family relationships. Award-winning Brian Yorkey directs the complexities of connections between three generations of Jewish Americans so that they rise up out of their cultural identity to a much more universal humanity. The effect is this is any family, any time, anywhere.

Who doesn’t have a grandma who gripes, criticizes and corrects? Suzy Hunt makes Grandma Kurnitz stern, strict and fun to make fun of, yes, but also human, forgivable and even lovable. Standard as that interpretation is, Hunt breathes fresh, new dramatic tension into it.

Think teenaged brothers being teenaged brothers is always a pleasure? Think no more. Difference here is Colin Morris and Nick Robinson make Jay and Arty real. They get away with what they can but in the process also learn the lessons they’re supposed to. Morris and Robinson convince.

Jennifer Lee Taylor individuates the not-as-dumb-as-she-appears to be aunt Bella. Bradford Farewell fares well as the physically vulnerable, spiritually indestructible dad, Eddie. The fast-talking, petty thief, uncle Louie, comes through Mike Doody in an amazingly affectionate way.

Bill Forrester’s scenic designs are time-period suggestive in a big way; costume designs by Melanie Burgess, impeccably researched. Behind the scenes, off stage and not often recognized Stage Manager, Erin Zatloka from Lynnwood, calls all the cues and ensures Director Yorkey’s vision stays intact for every performance.

This is a major production by Village at its dramatic best; definitely, a must see.

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