After their father leaves to make earnings as a traveling salesman following the death of their mother, pre-teen brothers Jay and Arty find themselves stuck with their strict German Grandma Kurnitz of a troubled past, helping their fun but slow-minded Aunt Bella and entangled in risky business with their suspicious and smooth-talking Uncle Louie, in Yonkers, New York.
You guessed it. It’s “Lost in Yonkers,” the Pulitzer-prize winning play by Neil Simon, reproduced on the ORU stage (directed by Courtneay Sanders) last weekend.
The technical component throughout the production was well executed. Sound cues were acutely on point and the music was a tasteful addition to the efficient scene transitions. The intricacy of the set was visible before lights even came up and warmly welcomed you into a quaint 1940s apartment in Yonkers, New York.
The two brothers introduced a certain liveliness to the play that couldn’t have been reproduced elsewhere. Big brother Jay, portrayed by Timothy Conn, freshened every scene with generous energy. Alaura Howery played the youngest son Arty and made me forget it was all an act (was it?). She embodied the character’s immaturity and wit so effortlessly that it forced me to laugh even in unintended moments.
The most inspiring element of coming-of-age story was the evolution of Aunt Bella, played by Laura Del Angel. From beginning as an oblivious, childlike figure to a woman who demanded her desire to love and to be loved, Del Angel beautifully executed the difficult balance of her character. Esther Gatica played Grandma Kurnitz who was an initially a static character, but commanded the stage wherever she walked on it.
I wished that Eddie (played by Omar Farfan) revealed more of that relative strength in his character. Farfan’s lack of New Yorker accent was distracting when he had lines such as ‘I didn’t realize I had an accent.’ Neither did I, Eddie. Uncle Louie (played by Jackson Land) took a while to grow on me with his slow cadence, but in the second act I enjoyed the contrast of his character with the rest of the cast.
Overall, the contagious energy and chemistry between the characters formed a strong cast and brought this story to life in a beautiful light. I found it difficult to be analytical as I was pulled into Yonkers and captivated in a story intertwined with love and loss that could be found in every one of us.