Mister Eclectic (howeird) wrote,
Mister Eclectic

Review - Coastal Rep

Lost in Yonkers by Neil Simon at Half Moon Bay's Coastal Repertory Theatre was surprisingly good. On the outside, the theater looks like crap, but inside it's beautiful. They have a large lounge area with a tiny wine bar and separate soft drinks/candy stand, and a small display of what San Mateo and HMB looked like in 1942, when the action on stage takes place. The theater has new well-padded auditorium seats, and holds 158 people, and it was a full house last night.

In brief: stunning set, superbly directed, excellent acting, good costumes, lighting was so good I didn't notice it.

The set is a faithful reproduction of the livingroom and dining room of Grandma's apartment above the store in Yonkers, NY circa 1942.  I think I counted seven doors, they all looked functional, though not all were used. The dining room was set upstage of the livingroom, which looked a little awkward, but it's only used in one short scene.

It's a sitcom. A zany sitcom. A zany sitcom with more dysfunctional family members than any 6 other sitcoms, along with correspondingly large chunks of angst. Here's the situation:

Dad (Greg Frediani) is a romantic guy who went into debt to loan sharks so he could pay for his wife's unsuccessful cancer treatments. He needs to come up with $8k in less than a year. He has an opportunity to earn that in the scrap metal business (the war's on, it's a lucrative business) but it means traveling all over the South. He can't take his boys Artie (Lucas Gust) and Jay (Alex Muzio). So he asks his mother, Grandma Kurnitz (Miriam Chase) to put them up at her place. She says no. But Dad's sister Bella (Jennifer Longo) sets up the king size sofa-bed and tells her mother that if the boys go, she goes too. Bella is Grandma's caregiver, and she knows Grandma (who is otherwise made of steel-reinforced iron with a huge piece of rebar up her butt)  is scared to death of being left alone.

So the kids stay. And they get to meet uncle Louie (Michael Lederman) who wears a dark brown zoot suit and a .45 and does not like it when people call him a "henchman". And they get to meet Aunt Gert (Elizabeth Lowe) who is so scared of Grandma that she hardly speaks. And when she does, she inhales the last half of every sentence.

Bella is a bit loopy. Lithium would probably help. And Paxil.  Ms. Longo is just plain amazing in the role, which, between mid-sentence mood swings and ADD flip-flops, must have been a chore to learn. Grandma is very German, she is mean just to be mean, and her personality would scare away Dobermans. Ms. Chase is very good in the role. I ended up hating the character and admiring the actress.

The boys are great. Both are about 15, and have been active in coastal youth theater which is directed by Lederman. My only complaint is neither of them managed to come up with  New Yawk Jewish accent. Muzio tried, but it was weak and what there was came out as Italian. Frediani wasn't given much to work with, but he was fine in the part. Ms. Lowe put on a heavy smoker's voice for her role, and managed to be weird and loving at the same time.

The cast was spot on in their lines, I only heard one brief bobble which was covered well. Casting was spot on, and a show as difficult as this one in the way of lines and characters only happens at this level with an excellent director, so my hat's off to Roxane Ashe.

Paul Anable designed the set, Michael Parry decorated it; Valerie Clear designed the lighting, Judy Larson was in charge of costumes. 

Lost in Yonkers runs for two more performances, Fri-Sat, they will probably sell out so get your tickets in advance here.

Stuff wrong with the script which should not keep you from seeing this show
There are a few things seriously wrong with the script:

First of all, for some unknown reason, he has made the family Jewish.  But there is nothing Jewish about these people. Grandma is very very Teutonic, the family name, Kurnitz, is not a common name for Jews, it's very German. Grandma's speech and manners and attitude are German. There is not a single Yiddish word in the script, which is wrong for this time and place even if this wasn't a Jewish household.

Yonkers is not a neighborhood which had a lot of Jews living above their candy stores. Brooklyn and the Bronx, yes, but not Yonkers. Yonkers isn't in the city, it's out in WASP country.

The names of the characters are wrong too, for either German or Jewish children of the 20's. The only Jewish name is Jay's - his real name is Jacob.

Another gotcha is the store. They keep calling it a candy store, but they have a soda fountain serving ice cream and malteds and such. In the 40's, candy stores did not double as soda fountains - drug stores did.

Tags: review, theater

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