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Moving. Witty. Dramatic. Hopeful: Neil Simon at his best.

  • May 10, 2013
  • by
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+5
First and foremost, Neil Simon is a brilliant playright, and Lost in Yonkers is another feather in his cap. Set in Yonkers, New York in 1942 during the second world war, two children-Jay and Artie-must stay for one year (while a debt is being cleared by their father) with their cold-hearted, inflexible, emasculating and miserly Grandmother Kurnitz, a hardened survivor and also a woman whose own inner emotional "icing up" (because of her own uncommunicated tragedy) turned her own kids into a petty thug (Louie), a childlike simpleton (Bella), a castrated doormat (Eddie) and a stuttering fool whom many privately mock (Aunt Gert). And under the intense conditions that this one woman evokes, Jay and Artie must struggle to live or rather survive, for a house without love or any caliber of human warmth whatsoever can quickly change these two boys from innocence and humor to the very spitting image of their deeply flawed aunts and uncle, and they themselves realize this; they must be steely and unfeeling, as their grandmother would love to have happen, for anything opposite that would be a sign of weakness and failure. And that is what makes Lost in Yonkers sad, disturbing and frightening, because those very elements are the ingredients for a very dysfunctional adulthood, and that is sometimes the worst weapon of all--the lacking of human love and warmth. But with the strict, life-sucking obedience that the kids must adhere to in order for there to be some semblance of peace and cohesion, one would think that there would be no possible glimmer of hope at all. Yet, the hope comes in the form of Jay and Artie's childlike aunt, Bella, whose simplicity will simply not allow her to be an unfeeling android who goes through the motions of life. She yearns for love and demands it, if not from her very mother than from her nephews and those whom she tries to date and form relationships with: "...But I'll never stop wanting what I don't have...It's too late to go back for me...Maybe I'm still a child but now there's just enough woman in me to make me miserable. We have to learn to deal with that somehow, you and me...And it can never be the same anymore...(She gets up) I'll put my things away...I think we've both said enough for today...don't you?" (P. 114). Bella's audacity to finally stand up and against her mother's cold stranglehold shifts the whole play and all its characters-though Gert and Louie seem so far gone and too steeped in their own problems to be redeemed-to a higher realm of betterment and potential, specificially for Jay and Arty, who have quitely borne their misery with fear and sharp wit and one-liners, while Bella and Grandmother Kurnitz have also somehow emotionally improved, if only minutely. But the next generation has been spared the wrath. Lost in Yonkers is about fear in the family, the sufferings that family's can inflict upon one another and ultimately redemption through that suffering. Lost in Yonkers is a true American play.
Moving. Witty. Dramatic. Hopeful: Neil Simon at his best.

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More Lost in Yonkers (Drama, Plume) reviews
review by . December 04, 2005
First and foremost, Neil Simon is a brilliant playright, and Lost in Yonkers is another feather in his cap. Set in Yonkers, New York in 1942 during the second world war, two children-Jay and Artie-must stay for one year (while a debt is being cleared by their father) with their cold-hearted, inflexible, emasculating and miserly Grandmother Kurnitz, a hardened survivor and also a woman whose own inner emotional "icing up" (because of her own uncommunicated tragedy) turned her own kids into a petty …
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Simon's 1991 Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning play about two young boys who are forced to live for a year with their domineering, ill-tempered grandmother while their father takes a job in another state is beautifully realized by the L.A. Theatre Works cast. Like most of Simon's works, this one features an eccentric cast of characters. Listeners meet Aunt Gert (played by Gia Carides), whose voice frequently switches into a wheeze midsentence, and Uncle Louie (played by Dan Castellaneta), a Bogart-like gangster. This production realizes Simon's trademark mix of comedy and drama: the one-liners are hilarious, but the characters' sad, dysfunctional relationships are poignant. The compassionate, three-dimensional performances, combined with Simon's nuanced writing and authentic rendering of 1940s speech, make the listener fully believe in these realistic, complex characters. Standout performers include Roxanne Hart as the boys' kindhearted but nervous Aunt Bella and Barbara Bain as Grandma Kurnitz, whose tough, coldhearted exterior is a reaction to a lifetime of devastating pain and loss. Also excellent are Ben Diskin and Kenneth Schmidt as the young boys. At first lonely and miserable, fearing and hating their stern grandmother, they gradually come to respect and understand her. Based on the Random House hardcover.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to theAudio CDedition.
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ISBN-10: 0452268834
ISBN-13: 978-0452268838
Author: Neil Simon
Publisher: Plume

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