REVIEW: Neil Simon’s “Lost in Yonkers” @ Barrington Stage Company [Berkshire on Stage]

July 24th, 2015, 1:00 pm by Sara
(l to r) Matt Gumley, Jake Giordano, Stephanie Cozart, David Christopher Wells and Paula Jon DeRose (photo: Kevin Sprague)

(l to r) Matt Gumley, Jake Giordano, Stephanie Cozart, David Christopher Wells and Paula Jon DeRose (photo: Kevin Sprague)

Theater review by Larry Murray

At the Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, the fresh new production of Lost in Yonkers is a contender for the summer’s best comedy. It’s a really funny show, especially the first act when we get to meet the characters. It is also in the race for the year’s best drama, as the second act unfolds with more gravitas than guffaws. It’s likely to be a hot ticket, too, since it is hitting the sweet spot with its audiences, as they find its human dimensions absolutely riveting.

Granted, it’s been a long time since just having Neil Simon’s name on the marquee was a gold-plated guarantee of a hot ticket. Lost in Yonkers came well after Simon’s laugh-a-minute comedies The Odd Couple and Fools, and also much later than his autobiographical plays Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues and Broadway Bound.

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One thought on “REVIEW: Neil Simon’s “Lost in Yonkers” @ Barrington Stage Company [Berkshire on Stage]”

  1. K Jenkins says:

    I was accompanied by two 15-yr-olds when I attended the 5 pm show of Lost In Yonkers on Sunday 07/26/15 at 5 pm. The consensus was that the set was engaging, but that neither the dramatic work itself nor the dramatic performances we saw were terribly engaging. Several of the players showed terrific comic timing, but the falsetto voice adopted by the actor playing the 15-yr-old Jay (apparently to take a few years off his age?) was strange and grew more annoying as the play failed to click. Ms DeRose, as the intellectually challenged 30-something Bella, presented a unique and coherent character, just not one whose personality and temperament felt like the natural outgrowth of the background presented by this work. My biggest gripe was the lack of motivation for several of the climactic emotional scenes that were dramatized. The character of the grandmother, for example, is presented as callous and ungenerous to even her closest family, a character which motivates a dramatic impasse at the end of the first scene. But no sooner has her character and attitudes been defined as rigid as steel, than her edict is overrun without a speed bump by Bella’s simple-minded oblivion. It doesn’t make sense. An incomprehensible crisis over whether the boys will/want to open the zippered bag of their Uncle Louie later in the play comes off as fabricated, right out of thin air. I am still scratching my head over what that was about. The discrepancy over the grandmother’s ability to hear what is said in the next room was irksome too, at times hearing everything, then none of it, depending on what’s needed to drive the ‘plot’ or next joke, it seemed.

    I was particularly disappointed, not just because we’d driven 2 hours from the Hudson Valley to attend it, but because of the high expectations piqued by all our previous experience at the Barrington Stage venue. Last summer I wandered into “Breaking the Code” on a lark, and it left me with goose bumps, and inspired months of research into the life of the historical figure inspiring the work: Alan Turing. (The performance of Mark Dold brushed up closer to the truth than did Cumberbatch in Imitation Game, the film that purported to tell ~ the same story.) Then we saw Man of La Mancha earlier this season, the third time I have seen it staged, and – by a margin – the most inspired (the other two include the original Broadway show seen as a youth, then Albany Capital Rep’s revival within the last decade).

    Now that I have seen Lost In Yonkers, I am particularly confused by the uniformly positive reviews I found everywhere for this production. I can imagine there are those whose taste would accommodate what mine has not in this show, but I cannot imagine that experienced theatergoers were so uniformly impressed. Yes, I did not start out as much of a fan of Neil Simon comedies, but was certainly ready and willing to be enlightened to his genius by the Barrington production. That did not happen though.

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