Reviewed by Tony Annicone
Granite Theatre's latest production is the Pulitizer Prize winning, Neil Simon show, "Lost in Yonkers". Set in 1942, the play examines the realtionships in the emotionally crippled, Kurnitz family. Simon shows why the five adults in this show have become the way they are and how it affects the two young teenagers left in their midst. Director Vincent Lupino mixes the comic and dramatic moments perfectly leaving the audience laughing and crying at the appropriate times. He and his seven performers make this a must see show of the season.
The cast is led by two fantastic actresses. Sandra Laub plays Bella, an affectionate 35 year old who is mildly retarded. She wants the same things normal women want but her mother smothers her with a stern unbending hand. Sandra brings great warmth, humor and pathos to the role of Bella. She makes the audience cry while she pleads with her family about marrying a movie usher and makes them cheer her on when she finally stands up to overbearing mother to let her live life to the fullest. Sandra's portrayal of Bella is superb and she shines in her role. Carol Forrest makes the German monster, Grandma into a powerful charcter. Her bitchy, meanspirited behavior hides her true hurt at the death of her young son many years ago. Carol's strong acting makes you dislike this horrible woman until you find out the true cause of her behavior. Both Carol and Sandra's interactions with each other and the rest of the cast are wonderful and sets the standard for the others to follow.
The youngest members of this cast are marvelous in their roles. 14 year old, Doug Young as Jay and 13 year old, Eddie Barber as Arty as the boys left to live with their terrible, unemotional grandmother after the death of their mother shine in their time on the stage. Both these young actors handle their huge amount of dialogue with the ease of veteran performers.Doug and Eddie make the humor, pathos and fright of their plight in Yonkers a joy to watch. They act very naturally in their roles and make the audience believe they could be brothers in real life, too. Two multitalented boys who not only excel in acting but direct and write shows at their tender age. Keep your eye on these two because they have a bright future in the theater.
The other dysfunctional members of the family are the mobster, Uncle Louie, the speech impaired, Aunt Gert and their emotional, father, Eddie. Bob Mignarri makes Louie into a scene stealer with his swagger and tough talk to the boys. He brings the comic aspect out in this crazy family setting and shows he still has a soft spot when he helps Bella out with her boyfriend by giving her the money she needs. Mary Sue Chiaradio as Gert is hilarious. Her character's speech defect of breathing in and out on her lines leads the audience into gales of laughter. Mary Sue shows her warmth to Bella with a hug. John Bina plays Eddie, the boy's father with great warmth. He makes you feel for him during the early moments with his despair at his wife's death, his leaving of the boys with his awful mother and the financial troubles that led him into this situation.
Director Lupino creates the right atmosphere for an apartment in the 1940's from the decor to the costumes to the musical background. He is aided by his hard working stage manager, Jason Colvin who keeps things running smoothly while runing lights and sound. The set by artistic director, David Jepson includes a downstage living room set with an upper level dining area and the necessary 5 doors with one leading downstairs to the icecream shop is well done. The paneling and the baseboard are the finishing touches of authenticity. Great job to Vincent and his hardworking actors and crew.
Another highlight of opening night goes to caterer, Lorain Simister who makes the foods to reflect the current show. Among the treats of the evening were Grandma's homemade chicken soup, a black bean dip, sundried tomato spread, peanutbutter pickle spread, challabah bread and many, many more. Lorain does a splendid job and she runs Lor Concierge, catering firm. Call her at 401-596-9685, tell her Tony sent you. Her associate, Kim, runs Kimberly Jones Confections. She makes excellent candies and this time she made homemade vanilla ice cream which vanished quickly and sesame chocolates, too. So for an excellent show, make sure you catch "Lost in Yonkers". (For those of you who like a taste treat which is out of this world, try to go on future opening nights.)