Highly Recommended ***** Neil Simon’s comedies have been making audiences laugh, and think, for many years. One play, which has not been done as often as the others is his “memory” play dealing with the Summer of 1942 ( the year I was born) as a man with two boys is forced , due to circumstances beyond his control , to take off and leave them with their Grandmother ( his “dreaded mother”) for a year! The play is “Lost In Yonkers” and this sterling production is now on the stage at Northlight Theatre in Skokie- a production that is by far the best I have ever seen of this play. In fact, this version, directed to perfection by Devon de Mayo is even better than the film version . She truly gets into the heart and soul of this family, which many interpret as Mr. Simon’s family.
The story is more than just a situation during a major war. We learn about this family, headed by its matriarch, the “tyrant mother”, Grandma ( divinely played by Ann Whitney, her two remaining sons, Eddie ( the always reliable Timothy Edward Kane), who is the father of the two boys, his younger brother Louie ( deftly handled by Erik Hellman), who might or not be a mob “henchman”, and two daughters, Gert ( Anne Fogarty, who has a small but integral role that proves the line that there are “no small parts”) and the major role of Bella ( an amazing portrayal by Linsey Page Morton, who as the youngsters would say- “nails it”!). This is a difficult character, a girl who has not grown up and has some problems both mentally and socially, but who, after spending more time with her two nephews in their home, sort of matures, to a point, right before our very eyes. This role has a tendency to be overplayed and campy- Ms. Morton is sheer perfection!
That brings us to the boys- Arthur ( the amazing Sebastian W. Weigman) and Jacob ( Alistair Sewell is truly “the smart one”- also known as Jay and Artie, who are left to live with a woman that their late Mother kept them from during their youth and their father is now forced to leave them with to straighten out his life. During this two act play, spent in the apartment above the candy/ice cream shop that Grandma owns in Yonkers ( a beautiful set by Grant Sabin) we learn all about the lives of these characters and how they got to be where they are, but as Simon, unveils their personalities, we begin to see through the fabric that he has created and see that they can alter their lives and personalities..in one word…Change!
That is what Simon is getting at in this story. While fate may bring us to a certain place in life, if we learn to listed and observe, we can see that we are not set in stone and that our paths can change. these boys bring a new happiness into the lives of those who they are left with. Bella, a dreamer, becomes smarter about who she is and her relationship with others. grandma becomes less frightful and demanding, Louie sees the “moxie” in the boys and learns that his weak-kneed brother must have done something right in his life and Eddie learns that his sons and he will go forward and have a quality of life, of family life that he never experienced as a child. An amazing story, amazingly told by an amazing cast..! The tech people for this production are as important as the actors in what they bring to Simon’s recipe: Rachel Laritz (costumes), Lee Keenan ( lighting), Nick Keenan ( sound) and Sarah Burnham (props) all make it work , but it is clearly de Mayo’s insight into the story that allows us, the audience to feel that we are watching a dysfunctional family become normal and it is beautiful to behold!
“Lost in Yonkers” can be Found in Skokie, through June 8th at Northlight Theatre located at 9501 Skokie Blvd, ( just South of Golf Road) with performances as follows:
Wednesday 1 p.m.(except 5/21) and 7:30 p.m. (except 5/28)
Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.
Fridays at 8 p.m.
Saturdays at 2:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Tuesday, June 3rd at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets range from $25-$75 and are available at the box office, by calling 847-673-6300 or online at www.northlight.org
Students, subject to availability only $15
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Lost In Yonkers”
Plenty of FREE Parking and many great dining spots. Budget minded people might want to take a ride a bit north for the new father and Son Italian Cafe- a great italian menu, cost effective and served at your table swiftly.