AISLE SAY New York Environs


by Neil Simon
Directed by Michael Bloom
Starring Rosemary Prinz and Sara Surrey
Paper Mill Playhouse, Milburn NJ

Reviewed by David Spencer

Marcxh 2010

An emergency project that's come up has me cutting a few review corners, this edition, and this review is getting the shortest shrift, because there's not that much to say, and most of it's positive.

Lost in Yonkers is Neil Simon's 1991 Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy drama, and the current engagement at the Paper Mill Playhouse is the last stop of a regional trifecta (it has been co-produced and alreadsy been featured at two other regional theaters,. the Maitz Jupiter in Florida, and the Cleveland Playhouse,). Under the direction of Michael Bloom, it features a largely fine cast in a perfectly able staging (director Michael Bloom). If I have any caveats, they are that I think the acting (and direction) of the two young brothers is a bit broad and "kid-actorish" (surelywe're all capable of more nuanced approaches these days), and that the running gag of Gert, the sister's respiratory problem is likewise handled too broadly, and violates verisimilitude, which can be fragile in a Neil Simon play if the balance isn't just so. Happily, as I've indicated, these are but sidebar distractions, and for the most part things are handled quite well. With the most prominent and emotionally weighted roles, those of Bella and Grandma Kurnitz in the expert hands of Sara Surrey and daytime soap mainstay Rosemary Prinz respectively. The production should be especially enjoyable and worthwhile to anyone who has never seen the play before.

For those unfamiliar, who want to know a bit more about the play, a borrowed (and slightly modified) Wikipedia thumbnail appears below, with the Paper Mill cast names interpolated.


Lost in Yonkers is a coming of age tale that focuses on brothers Arty (Maxwell Beer) and Jay (Alex Wyse), left in the care of their Grandma Kurnitz (Rosemary Prinz) and Aunt Bella (Sara Surrey) in Yonkers, New York. Their desperate father, Eddie (John Plumpis), works as a traveling salesman to pay off debts incurred following the death of his wife. Grandma is a severe, frightfully intimidating immigrant who terrified her children as they were growing up, damaging each of them to varying degrees. Bella is a sweet but mentally slow and highly excitable woman who longs to marry an usher at the local movie house so she can escape the oppressive household and create a life and family of her own. Her brother Louie (J. Anthony Crane) is a small-time, tough-talking hoodlum who is on the run, while her sister Gert  (Patricia Buckley) suffers from a breathing problem with causes more psychological than physical problems. Missing much of the sentimentality of the plays comprising Simon's earlier Eugene trilogy, Lost in Yonkers climaxes with a dramatic confrontation between embittered mother and lonely daughter that permanenly and surprisingly alters the dynamic of this highly dysfunctional family.

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