CHATHAM, NJ - The setting is a two-bedroom apartment in Yonkers, NY. The time is 1942. We learn that two young boys, Jay and Artie, are about to move in with their cold,domineering grandmother.
There’s a lot going on in this taut, smartly written play by Neil Simon. Braden Mellina as Jay, the older brother, and Arty (Logan Guvenel) are doing their best to accept this fearful fate. Janet Aspinwall as Grandma Kurnitz has had her own anguished experiences, coming to this country from Germany many years earlier.
Her son Eddie (Dale Monroe) needs to take a job selling scrap metal, which will require constant travel. Their mother has died and he sees his own mother as the only option for the two boys.
The cast works together fluidly in this well paced production, directed by Wanda Maragni. Aspinwall brings out the starch and unyielding spirit of a woman who has struggled for survival, now living about the family candy store In Yonkers.
Her daughter Bella (Elissa Strell) lives with her. Strell is terrific as the daughter caught between a lingering childhood and adulthood. Yet she is the one with heart, who eventually breaks through the rigid atmosphere.
Craig Zimmermann as Louie arrives, obviously the black sheep of the family, who has gone off to make money from questionable sources. Then we have Gert (Meghan Sudol) who has also suffered from their mother’s domineering control.
All the performers are convincing as they struggle with ways to placate grandma while trying to live their own lives. Roy Pancerov’s set design nicely establishes the living room and dining area of an apartment during that period,even to the crocheted doilies on the furniture. Fran Harrison’s costumes also reflect the era. There are interludes of time changes, suggested through Diane Giangreco’s lighting, with voiceover by Eddie as he writes letters to his sons.
Even in these circumstances, Simon has a way of injecting humor into what would otherwise be a stifling environment. The play has much to say about family dynamics, money concerns and the baggage and resentment we all collect as time goes by. Although there are moments when the play verges on the sentimental, the overall effect is one of coming to terms with life’s limitations. It’s an evening well spent.
“Lost in Yonkers” continues at The Chatham Playhouse, 23 North Passaic Avenue in Chatham through Feb. 22. For tickets, call 973-635-7363 or visit chathamplayers.org.