BWW Review: LOST IN YONKERS at Chatham Playhouse
In their 98th season, The Chatham Community Players presents Neil Simon's Pulitzer Prize-winning play, "Lost in Yonkers," directed by Wanda Maragni from West Orange.
After the death of their mother, Arty and Jay's father is weighed down by debts. They are left to live with their stern grandmother, childlike Aunt Bella and hoodlum Uncle Louie so their father can pay back the loan sharks. In their strange new world of Yonkers, the young boys learn lessons about love, responsibility and the importance of family that will carry them into adulthood.
The set and costumes transports audiences back to the early 1940's. Chatham's stage is transformed into an apartment in Yonkers that sat above an ice cream store owned and run by the very tough Grandma Kurnitz, played by Janet Aspinwall. Her adult daughter Bella, played by Elissa Strell, who doesn't seem capable of living on her own, is left to take care of her difficult mother and also help run the store. Before Eddie (Dale Monroe) brings his son's Jay (Braden Mellina) and Arty (Logan Guvenel) to temporarily stay with their Grandma and Aunt, Grandma Kurnitz is very much in control of the household. Dale portrays the now single father as a loving one who is in a very challenging situation. After months of the boys living there, some chaos from Aunt Bella and their lawbreaking Unle Louie (Craig Zimmerman), Grandma Kurnitz seems to have learned some life lessons by hearing how everyone in her family truly feels and what they truly think of her, good and bad. By the end, Grandma seems to have softened just a bit; Bella is able to set dinner time and meet with friends on her own terms and the boys want their father to bring them back for visits. The character arcs that Jay and Arty have are strongly portrayed by Mellina and Guvenel. The two young actors do a terrific job of taking us on their journey of growth and even show us that they act as a form of stability in this tight ship of a household. They quickly become part of their Aunt Bella's support system when she finds it difficult to hold a family meeting so that she can tell them all news. After learning of their uncle's illegal business, they quickly realize what a good man their father is and how hard he is working to provide them with a better life, making them appreciate his difficult decision of leaving them with his no-nonsense mother. Zimmerman portrays Uncle Louie as the family member who always seems to have something up his sleeve. You know not to ask many questions when it comes to him, but you also know to do what he says as soon as he says it. Meghan Sudol plays a funny, but also somewhat heartbreaking Gert who can barely talk properly and who can't get out of her mother's house fast enough. Strell's Bella is a loveable character, who appears to be someone incapable of taking care of herself, but eventually over time you realize she is stronger than most think. Aspinwall's very stern Grandma Kurnitz always commands the stage, in control of her family's actions and even their way of thinking. Aspinwall does a wonderful job of revealing her character's arc from start to finish. Though she's not a completely changed woman, she does seem to have a slightly easier disposition.
The wonderful cast includes Braden Mellina as Jay and Logan Guvenel as Arty both from Chatham, Dale Monroe from Morristown as Eddie, Elissa Strell from Warren as Bella, Janet Aspinwall from Edison as Grandma Kurnitz, Craig Zimmerman from Rockaway as Louie and Meghan Sudol from Maplewood as Gert.
Alongside Director Maragni, the production team includes Producer & Stage Manager Andrea Sickler, Assistant Stage Manager Mara Ebert, Production Coordinator Carol Saso, Scenic Designer Roy Pancirov, Scenic Painting Dean Sickler, Costume Designer Fran Harrison, Lighting Designer Diane Giangreco, Props & Decoration by Tish Lum and original music is composed and performed by Sound Designer, Joe DeVico.
Remaining performance dates are February 14, 15, 21 and 22 at 8pm and February 16 at 3pm. All performances are at the Chatham Playhouse, 23 North Passaic Avenue, in Chatham. Tickets are $25 for adults and $23 for youth/senior.
Tickets can be purchased at the Box Office or Online. To access the theater's new online ticketing service, where you can now reserve your particular seat, please visit ccp.booktix.com.