Picture the most dysfunctional family you can think of. Maybe yours. Now kick them out of the picture and make way for the family in Lost in Yonkers. In Neil Simon’s Pulitzer prize winning coming-of-age comedy, Simon takes a hard look at this family through the eyes of 13 and 15 year old Jay and Arty who suddenly have to spend ten months living with their estranged grandma while their dad is on the road.
Not enough to convince you? Watch our Lost in Yonkers preview where we show a scene from the play and interview director Chantale Plante.
And for you lovers of the written word, here’s the script of the review in print form:
Picture the most dysfunctional family you can think of. Maybe yours. Now kick them out of the picture and make way for the family in Lost in Yonkers. Grandma emigrated from Germany to Yonkers, New York, bringing with her only the harsh life lessons of her own upbringing to raise her family by. In Neil Simon’s Pulitzer prize winning coming-of-age comedy, Simon takes a hard look at this family through the eyes of 13 and 15 year old Jay and Arty who suddenly have to spend ten months living with their estranged grandma while their dad is on the road.
Ottawa Little Theatre’s presentation of Lost in Yonkers does it proud. The laughs come quick and often in the opening scene that sets up the family and characters we’ll come to meet, through a conversation the young boys have while their father talks in private with their grandma. Both Thom Nyhuus and Ven Djukic do a wonderful job in the roles of Jay and Arty. There was one scene where Thom seemed a bit stiff but it’s opening week and considering these boys are on stage almost the entire duration of the play, they do an excellent job in their characters and make for believable brothers.
Then, after what might have been twenty minutes talking about her, Grandma appears. And Charlotte Stewart, you are awesome. From the moment you get on stage, you’re everything you need to be, to be the hard-ass raised-in-Germany matriarch of this family.
Grandma’s easily poised to be the favourite character in the play. Until Uncle Louie shows up. Louie, played here by John Collins, is the wise-guy-type you love watching in all those gangster-era movies. The man embodies the moxie he tries to teach young Jay and Arty about during the play. And he’s got some of the best lines in the play.
But. It’s the deeply emotional scenes between Grandma and Laurie Batstone’s Bella near the end of Lost in Yonkers that really hammer home the greatness this play. You’re a heartless wretch if you’re not emotionally invested in these scenes when these actors pour their hearts out on stage.
Rounding out Lost in Yonkyer’s cast and not to be left out are Robert Hicks and Tara Berish playing Jay and Arty’s dad and aunt respectively. While they both have limited screen time, they make the most of it, particularly Berish whose character has one of the weirdest speech impediments ever.
*Disclosure: Matthew Champ, our usual reviewer, was unable to attend this play. Lost in Yonkers was reviewed by Allan Mackey who left the on camera delivery to the professional.
Photo in this article taken for Production Ottawa by Allan Mackey.
Video production courtesy of Valley Wind Productions, produced by Allan Mackey.