Neil Simon is one of the greatest comedic-dramatic playwrights of all time, and his Pulitzer Prize winning play, Lost in Yonkers, graces the stage at the Group Rep at the Lonny Chapman Theatre in Noho arts district. Although this sentimental coming of age story takes place some 50 years ago, its message of family survival despite all odds (financial hardships; loss; disability) resonates with us today. The story is timely and contemporary, and topical to today’s troubled times, where families sometimes work odd jobs to scrape out a living and rely on extended family support, and the characters’ trials and tribulations affect us all emotionally.
The play, directed by Larry Eisenberg, and produced by Doug Haverty, centers around two brothers, Jay (Bennett Saltzman) and Arty (Brent Anthony), whose mother has died and are forced to live with their grandmother (Loraine Shields) and mentally challenged Aunt Bella (Roslyn Cohn). Meanwhile, their father (Patrick Burke) is caught in a maelstrom of debt and financial desperation, having no other choice but to travel and leave his sons behind with his extended dysfunctional family. As his facial expressions truly reveal his inner angst, Burke is a remarkable actor, eliciting compassion and empathy from the audience. De rigueur, Simon effectively uses sarcasm and schtick, particularly by brother Louis (Van Boudreaux) and sister Bella, as well as witty dialogue ala shades of Woody Allen/ Larry David style humor. Overwhelmed and overworked, he counts on his boys to be strong, ironically depending on a clan of helplessly dysfunctional relatives coming to his aid.
Simon’s witticisms and gems of dialogue are once again priceless in this comedic drama, as the two young men, lost in Yonkers, ultimately find themselves. Each character, in his or her own unique style, imparts words of wisdom, teaching us profound lessons on life, belonging, family, a home of one’s own.
Through October 22
Fridays and Saturdays 8pm
Lonny Chapman Theatre
10900 Burbank Blvd.