Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron
Lost in Yonkers
Also see Mark's review of Shen Yun
The Western Reserve Playhouse has changed their theater and added to the size of the audience in their newly redesigned facility. The new co-directors are Dawn Sniadak-Yamokoski and Brian Westerley, and both are leaving their mark by bringing new audience members to the theater. Sniadak-Yamokoski has a spectacular singing voice and has a first-rate acting trophy on her desk. Westerley has earned acting and directing awards for his work in community and professional theaters.
The first show of this season is Neil Simon's Lost in Yonkers. Set in Yonkers, New York, the story's background is 1942, the beginning of World War II. The family we see lives in a home owned by Grandma Kurnitz (Harriet DeVeto), an immigrant who escaped from Germany. Grandmother Kuntz has an ice cream parlor on the lower level of her home and she makes and sells the ice cream, manages the store, and keeps everything running in her dictatorial style.
As the play opens, Jay (Robert Rush) is grieving over the death of his wife and worried about his financial problems. Jay needs someone (maybe a relative) to take care of his two teen-age sons, Arty (James Patrick) and Eddie (Jay Hill), while he becomes a traveling salesman in order to work and pay off wife's medical debts and his debts. Grandma Kurnitz doesn't want to care for her grandsons. She objects to having two teenagers in the house. But, after the young men's Aunt Bella refuses to take them in, Grandma finally agrees to help with the family problem. Grandmother Kurnitz is a dictator and her home is the place where her children and grandchildren seem to make their life.
Louie (August Scarpelli) is a single man, the brother of Jay and the uncle of Arty and Eddie. The family learns Louie is a gangster and the two nephews want to grow up to be like Uncle Louie. Even Grandma knows Louie is a gangster and is slowly accepting him as a bad guy.
Shani Ferry has performed in several acting companies in Akron. She is an excellent actor and seems to be at the top of her talents in the role of Bella, a woman who has mental problems brought on by Grandma's approach to life. Ferry plays against the characters she so frequently plays. Her performance makes her worth with the price of admission.
James Patrick and Jay Hill play the teenage brothers. With the work of excellent director, the two young men are distinct, interesting, and play their roles well. The story has 10 months traffic on the stage, giving Patrick and Hill enough time to hone their characters. At the beginning of their stories, the young men are grieving the death of their mother. But, by the time the ten months have passed, Patrick and Hill have grown into young men who know something of their own lives.
Ron Gremba has designed a perfect, cluttered set that grew out of the early 1930s. The set is busy and decorated in early 20th century German style. The family was not not financially capable of decorating and living in a comfortable German style.
Lost in Yonkers, through February 10, 2018, 3316 Everett Rd., Richfield OH. For ticket information, call 330-620-7314 or visit westernreserveplayhouse.org.