note: entire contents copyright 2012 by Richard Pacheco
ďLost in YonkersĒ is considered by many to be Neil Simonís best play. It opened in 1991 on Broadway where it ran for 780 performances. It walked off with the seasonís major awards winning the Pulitzer, Outer Criticís Circle Award, Dram Desk Award and the Tony. The current production at Second Story shows you why. This fine production is propelled by laugh and drama, both skillfully performed with finesse and style.
In the Summer of 1942 widower Eddie Kurnitz must leave his two sons with his domineering mother while he pursues work in the south to pay off a loan shark for the money he borrowed to help their now dead mother battle cancer. In the household is the childlike Aunt Bella and Uncle Louie, a small time hood on the run. The play deftly mixes Simon touches of humor with heartwarming and touching drama.
Matthew Pirraglia is the younger son, Artie. Andrew Jacovelli is the older son, Jay. Mr. Pirraglia is feisty and fun as the younger son, intimidated by his stern grandmother and at odds with the situation he finds himself living in daily. He is perky and energetic. It is a solid performance that is fun to watch. He has a solid sense of comic timing.
Mr. Jacovelli is a delight as the cocky, smart mouthed older brother Jay. He is very protective of his younger brother but finds it tough in the madhouse where he finds himself living. Mr. Jacovelli shows a fine comic sense and offers some great expressions while the madness unfolds around him.
Paula Faber is relentless steel as Grandma. She is a survivor who managed to get her family out of Germany before Hitler turned it all to hell. She is stern and harsh, determined to teach her children and grandchildren to survey at all costs. Ms. Faber is pitch perfect in the role with her German accent and harsh ways. She is not a woman to bestow love on anyone.
Hillary Parker is a enchantment as the childlike Bella. She has a fine comic timing and a real flair in her performance. She is alternately ditzy and people smart. Ms. Parker is full of energy with a witty flair for the funny. She has some great lines and delivers them with aplomb and impeccable timing.
Ara Boghigian is your macho tough guy, a Humphrey Bogart incarnate as Uncle Louie. He is on the run, perhaps for his life and manages to slide back into their lives and bond with his nephews. He talks the talk with that gruff, macho demeanor with skill and vitality.
Joe Henderson is the father Eddie. He is torn and tortured having to leaves his sons with his iron mother without kindness. But he does what has to be done. He is sensitive and trying to be strong for his sons. Mr. Henderson is adroit as she shifts back and forth from the strong to the sensitive.
Rounding out the cast is Tray Gearing as Aunt Ger, who has a funny way of talking, sometimes with breath going out, other times with breath going in. The result is very funny. Ms. Gearing is sheer glee as the aunt.
Director Mark Peckham shows a real feel for the material. He skillfully guides his cast through delicate balance of humor and drama with real flair and elegance.
Trevor Elliotís set design is a wonder, with period touches that are winning. The stairs to the rear and the multiple doors work really well. The flavor is definitely the forties and reminds me of my grandmotherís home.
Marcia Zammarelliís costumes are true to the time and appealing. Things like knickers for Artie and the gangster get up with spats and fedora for the gangster uncle are right on target.
This is a wacky dysfunctional family that is prepared for laughs and deep feelings by turns. They draw you into their world like a welcome guest and you enjoy the invitation. This is Simon at his best with vibrant performances to bring it all to life.
It will be presented at Second Story Theatre, 28 Market Street, Warren, RI until December 16, Tickets are$25 and under 21 for $20. 401-247-4200 or http://www.2ndstorytheatre.com/tixfaq.htm