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Lost in Yonkers rings true in today's climate
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Lost in Yonkers rings true in today's climate

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

Lost in Yonkers
Village Theatre
Issaquah through
February 28
Everett, March 5-28


We should remember during all this financial despair that, years ago, there were no such things as Social Security or welfare for hurting families. And it's not such a long time ago, really - the 1930s. Neil Simon brings that difficult era front and center with Lost in Yonkers, now playing at The Village Theatre in Issaquah.

People might think of Neil Simon as writing somewhat funny, somewhat silly plays that aren't terribly consequential or weighty. This play, while sweet and sympathetic, is also gritty and realistic. A widower loses his wife to a long illness and has to find a way to pay back the loan shark he borrowed from to help keep his wife alive. He finds a way to make money, but it involves going on the road for months and giving up his home. What can he do with his two boys, ages 13 and 16? He must ask his forbidding and cruel mother to take them in.

As we contemplate the choices people may be facing in Haiti and think about those whose homes are in forfeiture, it's not so hard to imagine a similar situation today. Bradford Farwell as the beleaguered Eddie is anxious and strained, trying to make the best out of his difficulties and begging his sons to understand and go along. Sons Jay (the gawky, heroic Collin Morris) and Arty (the adorable smart-aleck Nick Robinson) have to make the best of a terrible situation. They've lost their mother and now must let their father go on the road, but help him feel better about leaving them with a grandmother they're afraid of.

Suzy Hunt is the imperious, cantankerous grandmother, one who has put the fear of God into all her children. We learn that part of her cruelty comes from the long-ago sorrows of being attacked in her German homeland and losing two other children. But that still doesn't help her family understand her, since she has lost any softness she might have once had.

Grandma lives above their candy store with Aunt Bella. Bella is childlike and naïve and seems pretty incapable of taking care of herself. She's not stupid; she's just unaware. But she retains all the caring and sweetness that Grandma has lost, even though she has spent years alone with her mother. Bella is the leavening that makes the boys' situation bearable. Jennifer Lee Taylor as Bella is joyous and optimistic and persevering. Taylor is note-perfect in her portrayal of Bella, especially as Bella yearns to get married and have children of her own and leave her mother.

A couple of other family members enter the picture: Uncle Louie, a possible small-time thug played mysteriously by Mike Dooly, and Aunt Gert, played with sympathy by Karen Skrinde. The cast is well-directed by Brian Yorkey. A small Yonkers apartment is designed by Bill Forrester to good effect, with transparent screen doors through which you glimpse rooms beyond. A funny sound effect is made when Grandma closes her door, which reverberates ominously.

While the Yonkers accents are all strong and true, it might have been nice to hear a bit more of the Yiddish cadence that Simon writes with, but overall it's a solid production with a heartwarming ending. The comic timing is strong, leading the audience to laugh along with the tears. That's the best kind of comedy. For more information, go to www.villagetheatre.org or call 425-392-2202.

Comments on reviews go to sgncritic@gmail.com.

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