By Kathy Carpenter
“…how sad and funny life is. I can’t think of a humorous situation that does not involve some pain. I used to ask, ‘what is a funny situation?’ Now I ask, ‘What is a sad situation, and how can I tell it humorously?'” – Neil Simon
The Scripps Ranch Theatre proudly presents Neil Simon’s “Lost In Yonkers,” a poignant tale of family, loss, and the transformative power of love. Under the brilliant direction of Jacquelyn Ritz, the production delivers a moving experience that resonates long after the curtains fall. The characters come to life with remarkable depth thanks to an extraordinary cast. “Lost in Yonkers” is a play that leaves an indelible impression.
Set during World War II, “Lost in Yonkers” follows the journey of two brothers, Jay and Arty, who are sent to live with their strict grandmother and quirky aunt in Yonkers, New York. With their father away working to settle a debt and their mother’s untimely passing, the boys must mature quickly in this challenging environment.
Aunt Bella, a mentally challenged woman with childlike innocence, defies Grandma’s disapproval and welcomes the boys into their new home. Bella becomes a source of comfort and joy for Jay and Arty, offering them a fresh perspective on life. While the story revolves around Jay and Arty, it equally belongs to Bella. Grandma, a strong-willed matriarch who rules her family with an iron fist, strikes fear into her children’s hearts, and Jay and Arty aren’t exactly her biggest fans.
Throughout the play, Jay and Arty learn the importance of family and discover the redemptive power of love. They find that love can emerge from unexpected places and realize the significance of forgiving those who have caused them pain. In turn, they learn to forgive their harsh and critical grandmother. Bella discovers her self-worth and learns that she is not a burden but rather has much to offer the world. And Grandma Kurniiz finally learns to release her pent-up anger and bitterness from the past. These are invaluable lessons we can all glean from.
The cast is truly exceptional, with standout performances from Giovanny Diaz de Leon as Jay, the older brother, whose talent promises a bright future. JP Wishchuk, portraying Arty, showcases impeccable timing that elicits laughter time and again. Katee Drysdale delivers a remarkable portrayal of Bella. Jill Drexler brings Grandma to life with an unwavering strength that leaves a lasting impact. Eddy Lukovic, Kenny Bordierl, and Melanie Minp round out the ensemble, adding further depth and strength to the production.
The set of “Lost in Yonkers” depicts a small, cramped apartment above a Yonkers candy store. Every aspect of the set reflects the characters’ lives—faded wallpaper covers the walls, worn-out furniture fills the space. The constant stuffiness of the apartment serves as a reminder of the oppressive summer heat, capturing the essence of the 1940s wartime atmosphere.
This play beautifully blends humor, heart, and wisdom, guaranteeing an uplifting and inspiring experience for its audience. If you are seeking a truly remarkable theatrical experience, then “Lost in Yonkers” is the show you cannot miss.
Lost in Yonkers
Scripps Ranch Theatre May 19 – June 11, 2023.