Making a family: Lost in Yonkers found in town
It’s 1942 and three generations of an endearing family mingle and grow while the world goes to war. In Lost in Yonkers, America’s most well-known comic playwright, Neil Simon, shares a tender memory play about coming of age through tears and learning to let go.
“Simon wrote over 20 plays before he reached his zenith in this one,” says Larry Goldstein, artistic director for the first show in Live Arts' new season. “It places his audacious wit within the pained heart of one immigrant family."
Lost in Yonkers is the only one of Simon's scripts to win both the Tony Award and the Pulitzer Prize for best play. It opened in New York more than a decade ago, but it brought attention to Kevin Spacey, who won a Tony as Louie, and to Mercedes Ruehl, who won a Tony for her portrayal of Bella.
Simon describes the play as a "story about two boys who have lost their mother and whose father is forced to go out of town and become a salesman to earn a living.” The father has to leave his boys with a grandmother straight out of Dickens. Simon describes the children as “misfits,” and the home they’re parked in as a “hornet's nest.”
Goldstein, an original member of the Live Arts ensemble, directs his wife, Daria Okugawa, in the central role of Bella, the thirtysomething sister/aunt who has never left home or grown up. Doris Safie plays cantankerous Grandma Kurnitz, and Tim Longo and Jonathan Stumpf portray Jay and Arty, respectively, the boys who come to live with their grandmother and aunt after their mother dies.
Ronda Hewitt, general manager at Live Arts, calls the play "a valentine to the city of New York" and invites Charlottesville audiences to enter Simon's world for a couple of hours and observe this dysfunctional, but endearing, family in their struggles.
Hewitt also invites season subscribers to order tickets now. In a tribute to American playwrights, the line-up features The Wild Party by Michael John La Chiusa and George C. Wolfe; Ah, Wilderness! by Eugene O’Neill; Summer Evening in Des Moines by Charles Mee; Buried Child by Sam Shepard; and Coffeehouse 13– original works by Charlottesville All-Star Writers.
Lost in Yonkers plays September 13-October 5, 8pm most evenings. Live Arts, 609 E. Market St. $11-14. 977-4177, x108.