Lost In Yonkers
Nancy Lewis is starkly real as the grandmother and, if it was all some kind of mathematical graph, she'd end up somewhere between Mrs. Danvers and Bette Davis' mother in Now, Voyager. This comedy is also a great voyage for her, too, though her character barely catches the boat, at the very end. But, at the outset, her two very funny, normal, rambunctious grandsons (left in her care at the start of WWII) are implicitly her next victims.
Doug Finlayson directs this excellent production, with two remarkable young actors thrust into a highly dysfunctional household, Leo B. Ramsey and Robert Love. Mr. Ramsey is excellent as a histrionic sort of Huntz Hall, or Ray Bolger, while Mr. Love is probably a future movie heart-throb. Both seem like they were born on stage, utterly smooth and real throughout.
And then there's Kelley Weber, captivating and entrancing as the somewhat developmentally disabled maiden aunt, helping that Inquisitorial grandmother in the family candy shop downstairs. She's a great, original creation that Neil Simon should be remembered for far into the future, right along-side Felix and Oscar from The Odd Couple. Ms. Weber is a heart-breaker every moment she's on (which, fortunately for us all, is fairly often).
The extremely resourceful Gary Glasgow hides his growing panic behind a mask of good parenting, as the boys' father: forced to relocate after a deal with the devilor, rather, a loan sharkputs him deeply in debt, sending him South as a travelling salesman. But, at the play's outset, he comes out of the grandmother's bedroom looking like a lion tamer who's lost both his whip and his chair, hurriedly making sure the boys are presentable before Ms. Lewis makes her entrance, to devour them all. It's a great play, because (in spite of the comically pathological situation) Mr. Glasgow's character, and pretty much all of them, slowly claw their way toward psychological healing.
Michael Scott Rash is very good as the gangster uncle, who's come to a fine compromise between his roles in his family, and in the mean streets. It turns out his aged mother has been good training for a life of dangeror, vice-versa. And Sigrid Sutter is the comically asthmatic aunt, whose own version of reality also shores up the others', in a great family dinner scene near the end.
Things work out as they must, though not everything is as simple and pure and perfect as we might have naively assumed. And, in her final moments on stage, Ms. Lewis is left alone: wandering forward toward the street windows, seeming to snap through invisible cobwebs; tentatively up into the light.
Through October 21, 2012, with a just-added extra matinee Wednesday, 10/17. For more information visit www.newjewishtheatre.org or call (314) 442-3283.
* Denotes member, Actors Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers in the US.