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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Wholesome ‘Yonkers’ stifled by excessive banter

    Wholesome Yonkers  stifled by  excessive  banter

    Aside from planting “”Lost in Yonkers”” in a New York town whose name sounds fake (it’s not), Neil Simon’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play grapples with very real and gritty truths concerning loss, maturation, responsibility and how deep familial ties really reach.

    While World War II rages overseas, brothers Arty (Maxx Carlisle-King), 13, and Jay (Ryan DeLuca), 15, face their own battles. The boys are forced to live amid the wrath of Grandma Kurnitz (Judy Kaye), a German immigrant who may be made of steel, and Aunt Bella (Kate Goehring), an endearing but nevertheless loose cannon, for one year. Their father, Eddie (Spencer Rowe), sets out for the south as a traveling salesman, selling scrap metal to pay off debts he incurred from his late wife’s medical expenses.

    The first half of the play focuses on the seemingly banal occurrences that ultimately shape the boys’ viewpoints. Evasive, jocular, and a little bit dangerous, Uncle Louie (Preston Maybank) shows up in the dead of night with a gun strapped to his side; Aunt Bella visits the movie theater a little too often and stays a little too late — much to Grandma Kurnitz’s dismay; Arty and Jay find out Grandma Kurnitz has a nest egg hidden somewhere in the apartment worth much more than their father’s debt. These partly mulled-over moments build with a silent, steady speed until they surround the family in a confrontation fit to drive the second half of the play.

    The set, designed by Michael Schweikardt, depicts the inside of Grandma Kurnitz’s apartment and is striking in its meticulous craft. However, under the constraints of a single setting and Simon’s focus on banter (regardless of how humorous or well-written it may be) the first half of “”Yonkers”” feels dialogue-heavy. With minimal action, it is hard to come by a moment’s rest to collect one’s thoughts and focus on the nuances of the scene.

    The cast gelled together well, and director Samantha K. Wyer forms them into a perfectly haphazard and authentic familial unit. Carlisle-King and DeLuca are nothing short of charming with costume designer David Kay Mickelsen’s high-waisted pants, their short-a split accents, and male-adolescent banter.

    “”Yonkers”” gives credit where it’s due to every generation and the secret value of family bickering. What family comes down to in Yonkers? As Dudley Malone put it, “”I have never in my life learned anything from any man who agreed with me.””

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