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Review: LOST IN YONKERS at Hartford Stage

Lost in Yonkers Finds Standing Ovation at Hartford Stage, starring four-time Academy Award-nominated Marsha Mason

Review: LOST IN YONKERS at Hartford Stage

Hartford Stage presents Neil Simon's Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Lost in Yonkers, featuring four-time Academy Award-nominated, two-time Golden Globe Award winner, Emmy Award-nominated actor and director Marsha Mason (co-director and performing as Grandma Kurnitz), running April 7 - May 1, 2022.

As Simon's longtime collaborator and former spouse, Mason received three of her four Academy Award nominations from performing his works (The Goodbye Girl, Chapter Two, and Only when I Laugh). Lost in Yonkers is co-directed by Hartford Stage Artistic Producer Rachel Alderman (director of Cry it Out and co-director of It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, both for Hartford Stage).

Written by Neil Simon, Lost in Yonkers won the 1991 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for Best Play, so it's no wonder that Hartford Stage chose to add it to their 2022 season. It is heartfelt and perfectly balances comedy with profound storytelling.

After their mother passes away after a long-fought battle with cancer, two teenaged brothers are sent to live with their grandmother for ten months, while their father travels the country, working to get his family out of severe debt. Shielded by their father's kindness, a rejection of his own upbringing, the young pair experience a familial culture shock, later growing to know and love their bizarre newfound aunts, uncle, and grandmother. Uncovering long-buried secrets of abuse and trauma, the boys learn to recognize, respect, and forgive their deeply flawed, but ultimately good-hearted, family.

Another play falls prey to a dark-sounding plot, but make no mistake, Lost in Yonkers is a riveting ride with highs and lows: I laughed, I cried, and I loved it. I left the theater awe-inspired, feeling thoroughly invigorated by the performances, the script, and the overall experience.

Review: LOST IN YONKERS at Hartford Stage

Brothers Arty, played by Gabriel Amoroso (Broadway: Caroline or Change, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child), and Jay, played by Hayden Bercy (National Tours: King and I, A Christmas Story) are perfectly cast with Amoroso's comedic timing and delivery especially stealing our hearts. Bercy spoke quickly and sometimes I missed his words, but his emotion and portrayal were always crystal clear. Amoroso and Bercy are two young talents who are already doing wonderful work, but are clearly destined for even more.

Review: LOST IN YONKERS at Hartford Stage

Marsha Mason, as Grandma Kurnitz, has an outstanding, powerful presence. Mason expertly portrayed the harsh duality of the cold as steel, repressed, abusive matriarch. The most remarkable performance element was how Mason grasped the audience with unparalleled intensity: Each time Mason spoke, we anxiously held our breaths as she fully controlled and leaned into our suspense, making us feel as though we had been pulled into the scene ourselves.

The father, Eddie, is played Jeff Skowron (Broadway: Enron, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast) with real, approachable warmth that could be felt all the way at the last row of the theater.

The highlight of this production is, without question, Andrea Syglowski (Broadway: Pass Over, Off-Broadway: Halfway Bitches Go Straight to Heaven, TV: Evil, New Amsterdam, Blue Bloods) who stole the show as Bella. Syglowski truly captivated the audience with her unique and unpredictable energy, expertly delivering terrifically complex layers of comedy, pain, love, and beauty. One never knew what was coming next with Bella, but always leaned in to find out. Syglowski's performance is not to be missed!

Review: LOST IN YONKERS at Hartford Stage

Michael Nathanson (TV: Marvel's The Punisher, The Knick, Succession, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Madam Secretary) plays the boys' henchman uncle, Louie, with flair, charm, mystery, and, of course, moxie. Nathanson's brilliant performance felt wonderfully real, as he presented a paradoxical character that we came to know and love, but, never truly knew.

The boys' aunt, Gert is played by Liba Vaynberg (Hartford Stage: Ether Dome, Off-Broadway: Round Table, The Oregon Trail, The Russian & The Jew, TV: The Soap Myth, New Amsterdam, Madam Secretary) with grace and intrigue. Gert doesn't appear on stage until well near the end of Act Two, but Vaynberg was such a delightful addition that I wished she had been there from the beginning.

Review: LOST IN YONKERS at Hartford Stage

While I wasn't immediately invested in the opening scene, I am certain that I was an anomaly because the warm audience jumped right on board with enthusiastic laughter. My fellow audience members and I had difficulty understanding the boys' diction at the start, but as the show went on, we adapted to the acoustic black-box, often clipping our laughter to avoid obscuring the characters' next lines. Absolutely enthralled by this truly special production, the audience wholeheartedly embraced every moment and, at times, carefully sitting so quietly that one could hear the raindrops on the rooftop. It felt as though we were looking in to the Kurnitz family's home and risked being caught, thereby ruining theater magic, which was marvelously produced by Lauren Helpern's scenic design (Broadway: Voices in the Dark, Off-Broadway: Skintight & Bad Jews, 4000 Miles & Disgraced), Aja M. Jackson's lighting design (Off-Broadway: A Commercial Jingle for Regina Comet, Regional: Behold, A Negress; Hear Word), and costume design by An-lin Dauber (Hartford Stage: It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, New York: Paul Swan is Dead and Gone).

Lost in Yonkers found my heart. Another success from The Hartford Stage.

Review: LOST IN YONKERS at Hartford Stage

Review: LOST IN YONKERS at Hartford Stage Review: LOST IN YONKERS at Hartford Stage

Review: LOST IN YONKERS at Hartford Stage

Review: LOST IN YONKERS at Hartford Stage

Review: LOST IN YONKERS at Hartford Stage

Photo credit: T. Charles Erickson

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