BWW Reviews: LOST IN YONKERS a Triumph!
Just when I thought that the productions couldn't possibly get any better, at Carrollwood Players...renowned playwright Neil Simon's, "LOST IN YONKERS" opens and it is simply, a TRIUMPH!~ This production exemplifies why we go to the theatre! DON'T MISS IT!
Although the play takes place more than half a century ago, the theme is timeless. Who can't relate to financial challenges, family dysfuction, crisis, and rebellious teenagers? Times haven't changed that much.
And what better trademark for this play, than the comic king of New York, Jewish neurosis, Neil Simon. That being said, yes, "LOST IN YONKERS" has laughs, (and there are lots of them), but there is much more to this play than one line zingers. Through some of Simon's funniest moments, there lies a serious undertone, that makes us reflect of how family and life situations deeply effect our lives. I believe the bittersweet fable, "LOST IN YONKERS" to be Neil Simon at his very BEST!
"LOST IN YONKERS", directed by Gene Saks, opened in 1991 on Broadway, at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, and ran for 780 performances. The play won the 1991 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the Drama Desk Award for Best New Play and 4 Tony Awards including Best Play. In 1993, Neil Simon adapted his play for film, directed by Martha Coolidge.
From the moment the curtain opens, we are transported back in time to 1942, in Yonkers, New York, (on the Hudson River, just north of New York City's borough of the Bronx ) and to "Grandma's", 2 bedroom apartment above Kurnitz's Kandy Store and Ice-Cream parlor.
The story revolves around an eccentric, New York, Jewish family. Two motherless, teenage brothers, living in the excitment of New York City, are left temporarily in the care of their tyrannical grandmother and loving, but simple-minded aunt, in "no man's land", (much less than suburban), Yonkers, New York. And here, the boys find themselves indeed, "LOST IN YONKERS".
The cast is SUPERB!
Successfully producing a play about two teenage brothers is an ambitious project for professionals. Successfully producing a play about two teenage brothers, with volunteeers in "community theatre", is nearly an impossibility.
NOT with the Carrollwood Players production, with real life brothers Cameron LeVine as Arty and Justin Levine as Jay. They are two of the main reasons to run to, (not walk) to see this production! They are both bright and shining stars, at the beginning of their career, with the polish, talent, and skills, the likes of seasoned professionals. They are focused and engaged in every moment. This is an accomplishment that takes, (other actors) years of training. They each bring their natural, honest, sibling chemistry to the stage with charm and effervecense. Cameron rolls his eyes and wrinkles his nose while landing one liners like a vaudeville pro. Justin is clever and wise-cracking, with the timing of a sharp-shooter. Both Cameron and Justin are equally as effective displaying their vulnerability in touching, dramatic, scenes as well. BRAVO!
There are no "small roles", and Marc S. Sanders proves this, as the endearing, broken-hearted widower, Eddie. Although his character is full of insecurities, he gives a multi-layered performance, of a quiet strength and love for his two sons. His dramatic monologue, where he explains to his sons about borrowing money from a loneshark, is brilliant. In addition, Mr. Saunders handles his travelogues with honest, unassuming wit and panache.
As Uncle Louie, handsome, dapper, Matt Bravo, is perfectly cast as the flamboyant, yet menacing small-time mobster. Elle Simmons in the cameo role of Aunt Gert, adds the result of her childhood trauma, to the dysfunctional family. In only one scene, Ms. Simmons gives a memorable performance, creating a well developed, believable, excentric character, who sucks in air while still speaking.
Jen Martin, in the first star turn in this production, as the sweet, loving, yet "not quite right", Aunt Bella. Ms. Martin is a whirling dervish, literally spinning and jumping up and down with the exhuberance of a child, locked inside the body of a woman, in what I believe to be the most challenging role in the play. The laughs she creates are honest and well deserved. Her mood switches from joy, to demands, to delight, to fury, with split second timing. Ms. Martin's portrayal is-multi layered with a childlike innocense and the depth of a middle aged woman, wanting so desperatly to be loved. Her dramatic scene with Grandma in Act II will leave you breathless. Ms. Martin is outstanding, giving a totally captivating "star" quality perfomance.
And then, last but not least, the next star turn is by Trish Farber as Grandma. Ms. Farber's mere presence on stage will send chills up your spine. She commands the stage at every moment, with a reserved, calibrated control, that will leave you at The Edge of your seat, wanting more. Her tight-lipped, German accent is in itself, threatening and adds dimension to the vicious, grand dame dictator. Ms. Farber can speak volumes with a single stare. A powerful, stunning, "star" quality performance.
The set design by James Cass, is vintage perfection; filled with a wealth of heavy, Victorian charm, every prop and doily in "its place". Cass created a home-museum, laddened with a profound atmosphere of stagnant, opression.
The lighting design by JC Martin is magical...beautifuly lit, with rays of sunshine pouring in through the lace curtains and even a touch of evening moonlight. Costumes by James Cass and Chris Dietz were perfectly period and plentiful. The sound by JC Martin was clear and the scene changes were enhances by period music. Stage Manager, Margaret Medwedew kept the production moving smoothly.
It is obvious that Director Frank Stinehour, has a finely tuned understanding of this piece, and has an amazing eye for casting. He has staged this seemless production to its fullest. His gentle hand moves the audience from comedy to drama, smoothly without a pause. Mr. Stinehour is equally at home directing the comedy, as well as the emothional demands of this play. I cannot imagine a more professional production of "LOST IN YONKERS".
This production is way beyond "community theatre" expectations.
Need I say more?
Please support Community Theatre and all of the volunteers, that put in endless time and talent, to make the magic happen, simply... "for the LOVE of the theatre".
Go see it!
CALL - (813) 265-4000
The theatre is located at 4335 Gunn Hwy Tampa, Fl, 33618
The next production at Carrollwood Players is "FAME jr.", August16th -25th, 2013
From This Author Jimmy Ferraro