REVIEW: Lost in Yonkers (Village Players)

Two brothers zing Simon’s show

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Village Players Theater presents:

Lost in Yonkers

 

Written by Neil Simon
Directed by
Brian Rabinowitz
Thru February 21st (more info)

By Katy Walsh

Living on top of a candy store is every kid’s dream – unless the shop is owned by a tyrannical grandmother! yonkers2Set in the early 1940’s, Neil Simon’s Purlitzer Prize and Tony Award winning play is a coming-of-age story about two teenagers forced to live with their cruel grandma for a year. When financial complications require their father to take a job on the road, Arty and Jay leave the Bronx for Yonkers. Sleeping on the pull-out couch, the boys live in the 2 bedroom dictator world with their grandma as supreme leader. Making family life a little more pleasant and weirder, they get to know their crazy Aunt Bella, con artist Uncle Eddie and strange Aunt Gert. Playwright Neil Simon is the master for portraying family dysfunction in a comical manner, and in Lost in Yonkers, the two young boys’ antics lead family members to face their past destructive patterns.

Under the direction of Brian Rabinowitz, Andrew Raia (Jay) and Jake Walczyk (Arty) are fantastic as the brothers. Their onstage chemistry makes the relationship bond seem real. Raia’s Bronx accent is the best in the cast. Whether his sulking on the couch or challenging his grandma, his timing is authentic and flawless. Walczyk’s delivers some of Simon’s best zingers. The comedy is heightened for extra laughs from this pint size messenger with a big attitude. As Grandma, Deanna Norman’s presence alone on stage is disapproving and threatening. Add in the character’s severe child raising practices, Norman makes anyone squirm in their seat.

yonkersThe most demanding part in the show is the role of Bella. A woman incapacitated by mental illness and her mother’s hold, the role requires a combination of child-like innocence, a woman’s romantic desires, and neurotic outbursts. Stephanie Ganacolpos does a fine, but not consistent, job of hitting all these elements sporadically throughout the show.

Designed by Annette Vargas, the set is that of an apartment in Yonkers that’s seen better years. In the first scene, the audience learns how particular grandma is about the doilies on the couch – with this realization, however, the sloppy wallpaper seems a little too imperfect for grandma’s home. Bella’s wardrobe also malfunctions after grandma throws a cup of tea on her. The tea results in Bella displaying distracting wet stains on her cotton dress in the next scene. The costumes by Emma Weber add a layer of understanding of the time period, especially Arty’s short pants. Under Weber’s guidance suits, ties, and dresses rule the day – there are no casual comforts. It’s hard to imagine today’s teenage boys wearing suits and ties in an un-air conditioned apartment.

Although taking place more than a half of century ago, Lost in Yonkers has timeless themes of family dynamics, teenage rebellion, and financial struggles. It’s a perfect show to escape and compare family war wounds. If nothing else, go to see the beginnings of the brilliant stage careers of Andrew Raia and Jake Walczyk.

 

Rating: ★★★

 

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Lost in Oak Park for a half hour, Shawn says this about the show: “the kids make it!”

WAITING FOR THE SHOW

The Village Players Theatre is located at 1010 W. Madison. According to CTA, its 5-6 blocks from the Harlem-Lake stop on the Green Line. For us on a Sunday afternoon, it was a 30 minute ride on the Eisenhower to the Harlem exit. We arrived early to the area to grab a bite Oak Park-style. Turning left onto Madison, we drove several blocks only to find a plethora of Irish pubs and realize we were also in Forest Park. Turning around and heading east on Madison, we passed the theatre and searched for a nearby restaurant. Lost in Oak Park, we realized Madison did not host the best dining options. We decided to head north toward the green line. In our efforts, we stumbled on Geppetto’s (113 N. Oak Park Avenue). Friendly and efficient, our server seemed to be solo in finishing up the lunch crowd. Remnants of family dining were apparent underneath high chairs. Several tables hadn’t been bussed and uncollected tips circled the room. I had a delicious and huge Italian beef sandwich destined for leftovers. Shawn had minestrone soup and a Cobb salad which were both a little too salty for his taste. When traveling straight down Oak Park Avenue to Madison, the theatre is much closer to interesting dining options than previously believed.

3 Responses

  1. […] Check out the rest of the review at Chicago Theater Blog. […]

  2. On your way to Geppetto’s, going West on Madison from Harlem you say you went “several blocks only to find a plethora of Irish pubs and realize we were also in Forest Park” – you missed some of the best restaurants in the Western Suburbs, in particular, e.g., Caffee Deluca – check with yelp.com next time you’re in an area and you don’t know where to eat . . .

  3. Thanks for the tip Tom! I’ll have to check Caffee Deluca out next time in Oak/Forest Park.

    Katy

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