Barrington Stage Company, Pittsfield, MA
through August 1, 2015
by Jarice Hanson
Barrington Stage is rapidly becoming the place where audiences find intelligent interpretations of shows they may think they already know. Barrington’s production of "Lost in Yonkers" breathes new life into one of the most familiar of Neil Simon’s work.
Director Jenn Thompson has found the beauty of the original writing and has trusted an exceptional cast to deliver the heart and pain that portrays three generations of a family. This production makes the audience members realize what a craftsman Simon is, and how his words are timeless when actors fully commit to the script. Too often this playwright's works are delivered at rapid pace while actors reach for the laugh lines. But in this production the pacing is slower, and as a result, the lines have far more potency. What emerges is a sense of what family is, and what we most remember about our own family relationships.
|Photo by Kevin Sprague|
There’s not a single weak member of the cast, but special mention should be made of Lynn Cohen in her portrayal of Grandma Kurnitz, a mean spirited matriarch who “could tell if there was salt missing from a pretzel.” Paula Jon Derose as Bella captures the naiveté and awkwardness of a girl destined to always be child-like; and the boys, portrayed by Matt Gumley as Jay, and Jake Giordano as Arty, steal scenes and work together like veteran stage pros.
This "Lost in Yonkers" is deeper and more meaningful than any of the five (yes, five) previous productions this reviewer has seen, and it sets a new standard for finding life in older scripts that some have deemed “of their time.” Apparently, the audience agreed as they leaped to their feet in a standing ovation to honor the actors in this wonderful production. For those who don't necessarily enjoy Neil Simon, or think they can’t find something new in his work, they will not be disappointed by this loving offering of a classic tale from Barrington Stage.