Lost in Yonkers
by Neil Simon
directed by Heather Lovick-Tolley
Yonkers, NY is city just north of the Bronx, where playwright Neil Simon was born on the 4th of July, 85 years ago. He has chronicled family life in the Great Depression and after in a series of prize-winning plays, musicals and films. His frequent theme shows “likeable people in difficult situations.” His 1991 Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy, “Lost In Yonkers,” will be presented at the Adobe Theater for four weekends, starting June 28. Director Heather Lovick-Tolley chose to direct this somewhat painful comedy in celebration of Simon’s longevity as a celebrated American playwright.
Simon began his comic writing in early TV working for Phil Silvers and then Sid Caesar alongside Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks. (Those hilarious days were recalled in the earlier Adobe production of Simon’s “Laughter on the 23rd Floor.”) His familiar works of the sixties include “Come Blow Your Horn,” “Barefoot in the Park,” and “The Odd Couple,” all of which became successful films.
In “Lost In Yonkers” Simon draws the audience in to the quirkiness of the dysfunctional Kurnitz family. We watch as Jay (Nik Hoover) and his younger brother Arty (Vicente F. Vargas) learn to survive life with the cold and steely existence of their Grandma Kurnitz (Ninette S. Mordaunt- a frequent actor at The Adobe). The boys are forced to live for 10 months in a family dynamic that their father Eddie (Vernon Poitras – most recently seen at The Adobe in “Moon For The Misbegotten”) managed to escape years before. His siblings – the possible gangster Louie (Ned Record – seen in “Is Life Worth Living?”), childlike Aunt Bella (Kamila Kasparian – ‘Lydia’ in “All My Sons”), and Aunt Gert (Teresa A. Longo), who has a peculiar speech impediment, act as a humorous buffer between the boys and the harsh attitudes of their grandmother. Simon engages the audience’s sympathy as the young brothers come of age and Bella finds the confidence to stand up to her mother.
Ms. Lovick-Tolley was last seen at The Adobe as Sue Bayliss in “All My Sons.” As a graduate of the acting program at the University of New Mexico, she has used her training as a high school theatre teacher, an actress and stage manager in community theatre and professional theatre, and as a creative drama teacher for kids preschool through high school. “I chose this play,” Ms. Lovick-Tolley says, “because of the nuances of character, and the strength that everyone has at the end of the play. It is often referred to as a ‘coming-of-age’ for Jay, but when I read it I saw it more as a ‘coming-of-age’ for the adults. Because these boys are now a part of their daily lives they are forced to engage in an honest evaluation of why they are who they are…and they grow from it.”
Lost in Yonkers opens at The Adobe Theater on Friday, June 28th and plays through July 21st
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