If you have never been lost in Yonkers, chances are you have never been there. If you see the play, Lost in Yonkers, currently running at the Riverside Theatre, you will not lose your way in this superb performance of the Neil Simon play. It takes place in 1942 and concerns two teenage boys who are forced by circumstances to live with their less than lovable grandmother. She is a German-Jewish immigrant whose life was difficult from the beginning – and that’s before she learned the horrors of death camps. The boys, Jay and Arty (played by Bergman Freedman and Vincent Crocilla respectively), are just getting over the death of their mother when their father, Eddie (Steve Perlmutter), announces he must take a job down south selling scrap metal in order to pay their mother’s hospital bills. He will be gone for a year and the boys will have to live with their “unusual” family, Grandma (Shami J. McCormick), who gets up every morning on the wrong side of life, and their Aunt Bella (Emily Berman), who is two tomatoes short of a salad.
Resigned to what will probably be yet another major disappointment in life, they settle in to the small apartment, sleeping on a pull-out sofa in the living room. Then, in the middle of the night, they are joined by their infamous Uncle Louie (Jonas Cohen), a small-time crook running from the mafia. He will also need to sleep on the same sofa bed.
This may sound simple and a bit pedestrian, but far from it. A musical doesn’t come to life without music; a Neil Simon play comes to life with his funny, emotional, down to earth dialogue. This play is good. Really good. Simon actually won a Pulitzer Prize for it!
And he is no one-hit wonder, either. Just consider his string of hits – Barefoot in the Park, The Odd Couple, The Out-of-Towners, Biloxi Blues, to name a few – not just plays, but movies and TV as well. He even wrote the book for the hit musical Sweet Charity. (One of my ancestors wrote the lyrics.) Simon received more combined Oscar and Tony nominations than any other writer.
So enough about Neil Simon already. The acting in this Riverside production is, as always, excellent, especially the two boys, Freedman as a 15-year old on the verge of maturity and Crocilla as a typical New York, wise-cracking 13-year old. (Was that me, perhaps?) Aunt Bella (Berman) starts out sounding like early onset Alzheimer’s but ends up the most lovable family member.
You may have seen the movie version of this play with Richard Dreyfuss as Uncle Louie, but seeing Jonas Cohen bring Louie to life right before your eyes just cannot be duplicated in a movie theater.
Lost in Yonkers is playing through February 22, so there’s still plenty of time set your GPS and go find it. I went this time on a Sunday afternoon and if you haven’t done a matinee, this is the perfect show. Tickets start at only $35 and can be purchased by calling the Box Office at (772) 231-6990 or online at www.riversidetheatre.com.