Lose yourself in ‘Yonkers’ fine performances

January 26, 2010

By Chantelle Lusebrink

Jennifer Lee Taylor (center) and Suzy Hunt enact the climactic confrontation between Aunt Bella and Grandma Kurnitz, as (from left) Mike Dooley, Nick Robinson, Collin Morris and Karen Skrinde, as Uncle Louie, Arty, Jay and Gert, look on in a scene from ‘Lost in Yonkers.’ By Jay Koh/Village Theatre

Silently, Arty and Jay Kurnitz wait in their grandmother’s living room. They question why they’ve come so far to see a woman they barely know and they plot their escape.

But leaving isn’t on the agenda.

What unfolds onstage in the next two and a half hours is nothing short of dramatic perfection and well-timed comedic relief, provided by a talented cast who embrace the irony of one of Neil Simon’s best-known plays — “Lost in Yonkers.”

Typically, reviewers find time to take light notes in the margins of their program during a play, but “Lost in Yonkers” proved so captivating that it didn’t happen this time.

Comfortable suspense — if there is such a thing — kept everyone in the audience waiting for the next character to unravel.

As the son’s broken father, Eddie, played by Bradford Farwell, tries to heal himself and the family bank account after his wife’s death, the boys are faced with the realities of adulthood.

The touching coming-of-age story is marked by realism, not simplicity or comfort. Rather, the two boys — Jay, played by Collin Morris, and Arty, played by Nick Robinson — learn no matter how simple they may seem, familial relationships are messy, complex and laden with history.The realism and exposure each cast member brings to the stage, combined with an intimately designed set by Bill Forrester, makes you feel like a voyeur in someone else’s home and leaves the air heavy with suspense.

What makes this truly a remarkable performance, aside from how relatable it is, is how masterfully the performances are delivered.

Both Morris and Robinson perform well beyond their years and provide key comedic relief that perfectly juxtaposes maturity fitting the situation with childlike perspectives.

Wielding a mean cane, often the sound of impending doom for her family, Suzy Hunt, who plays Grandma Kurnitz, is a matriarch on a mission of submission.

Through the years, her resentment of life and her family builds what she perceives as impervious strength for them. Unyielding, she starves her children of love to make them strong, ultimately driving them to failed adulthoods.

Oozing charisma, Mike Dooly plays smooth operator Uncle Louie, whose small-time mob accomplishments prop up his ego. He does an excellent job at portraying a slimy criminal without making you hate him. In fact, he elicits sympathy as he comes to realize his only real tangible accomplishment in life has been to stand up to his mother.

On no other character is Grandma’s wrath so clearly seen, though, than on her 35-year-old daughter Bella, whom she believes can never, nor ever should, age from adolescence because of her slow demeanor.

Jennifer Lee Taylor, an Issaquah-native and Village Theatre alum, understatedly steals the show as Aunt Bella. The very antithesis of her steel-laden German mother, she breaks through her flights of childlike fancy and eventually learns, through Jay, Arty and the man she loves, how to wield her mother’s need for her to her advantage.

With Tony Award winner Brian Yorkey returning to direct, Village Theatre’s “Lost in Yonkers” is a true mark of the talent coming from our local theater groups.

If you go
‘Lost in Yonkers’
Jan. 21 – Feb. 28
Francis J. Gaudette Theatre
4303 Front St. N.
4Go to www.villagetheatre.org for show times.

If you go‘Lost in Yonkers’4Jan. 21 – Feb. 28 4Francis J. Gaudette Theatre4303 Front St. N. 4Go to www.villagetheatre.org for show times.

Chantelle Lusebrink: 392-6434, ext. 241, or clusebrink@gmail.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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