A View from the Cliff: “Lost in Yonkers” finds laughs in Rockaway

The ticket line snaked outside the theatre and down the block for Sunday’s performance of playwright Neil Simon’s “Lost in Yonkers.” The crowd filled the auditorium for Rockaway Theatre Company’s latest project.

Director David Risley, who usually performs onstage, and Producer Susan Jasper offer a crisp, well-timed comedy/drama with outstanding actors. The players deliver a compelling, compassionate interpretation of everyday hardships and heroics circa 1942.

The story begins with Arty and Jay, who are teenaged brothers forced into their grandmother’s care. Their widowed father Eddie, deeply in debt to a loan shark, must go on the road to repay his markers. Stranded under their cold, cruel grandma’s roof, the boys interact with childlike but loving Aunt Bella, dapper but dishonest Uncle Louie and sweet but timid Aunt Gert (Kimberly Simek).

These likable but dysfunctional denizens of downtown Yonkers provide an outstanding example of family, family, family. Andrew Feldman as the youngest sibling steals the show with his incredibly well-placed physical and verbal reactions.

His older brother Jay (Raimondo Graziano) is equally entertaining as he tries to rebel against grandma’s rigid rule. Aunt Bella, beautifully played by Lynda Browning, has spent her 35 years bent under grandma’s yoke but now is desperate to break free. Her honest emotions and deep affection are poignant and convincing.

Playing the boys’ pop is Bob Alpert. He shines brightest in monologues where he bemoans southern and western food and phonics, especially when compared to his New York City sensibilities. Well done! But who can fault Uncle Louie (Stephen Ryan). He is a tough guy with a good heart and a strong love for his family. Yes, he may be just a little bit on the run from mobsters too.

The common enemy is steely eyed, cold-hearted Grandma Kurnitz. She is portrayed with unsympathetic mastery by Susan Corning. Of course, we learn the anguish that has triggered this callous attitude but can we forgive her?

Kudos to the creative backstage team including but not limited to Suzanne Riggs, Mia Melchiorri, Frank Caiati and dozens more. The show is on a limited run and is definitely not to be missed.

For information on this and future productions, call 718-374-6400 or check the website at www.rockawaytheatrecompany.org. As always, save me a seat on the aisle.

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