Theater Review: 'Lost in Yonkers' -- 3 stars
Lost in Yonkers
Neil Simon's reputation as America's most commercially successful playwright took a hit two seasons ago when a Broadway revival of "Brighton Beach Memoirs," which enjoyed a long run in the 1980s, shuttered after just a week.
"Broadway Bound," which was supposed to run in repertory with "Brighton Beach Memoirs," didn't even run once.
But truth be told, that failure had more to do with the necessity of star casting than it did with the quality of Simon's writing.
In contrast, the first New York revival of "Lost in Yonkers," which combines Simon's trademark humor with serious undertones, is being mounted by the Actors' Company Theatre, a lesser-known Off-Broadway group, in the 99-seat venue at Theatre Row.
The World War II-era play, which won the 1991 Pulitzer Prize, follows two Jewish teens (Matthew Gumley and Russell Posner) who live with their steely German immigrant grandmother (Cynthia Harris), sweet, mentally-challenged aunt (Finnerty Steeves) and gangster uncle (Alec Beard).
Jenn Thompson's low-budget production proves to be a refreshingly straightforward. Rather than display the family's home in full detail, just a few pieces of furniture are used.
Thompson has also removed offstage monologues by the boys' father (Dominic Comperatore), designed for scene changes, to speed up the pace.
The cast delivers convincing, seemingly effortless performances. The pivotal scenes between aunt Bella, who desperately craves some kind of affection, and the grandmother, who closed herself off from all emotion years ago, are especially heartbreaking.