Lost in Yonkers

Lost in Yonkers
By Neil Simon. Canberra Repertory. Directed by Angela Punch McGregor. Theatre 3, Acton, Canberra. 14–29 September 2012

Lost in Yonkers is surprisingly authentic for a fictitional tale set 49 years before its 1991 composition. References to actors, sportsmen, and songs from 1942 almost suggest that it was penned at the time, and it won playwright Neil Simon a Pulitzer.

The tale is essentially simple, relying less upon plot revelations than upon character ones and comic interpretation.  It was fortunate to have a fine cast and director interpret it, particularly Helen Vaughan-Roberts, channelling Grandma Kurnitz's germanic morals; Bridgette Black, as 35-year-old Bella, shakily asserting her newfound womanhood; and Lachlan Ruffy and Pippin Carroll, as young teenagers Jay and Arty, carrying with flair most of the comic load.

 

Lighting was perfect; costuming, beautiful; and set design, as ever in Rep productions, elegant both in place and in scene-changing.  Sound design was good, even if, in this opening performance, the soundtrack occasionally threatened to overwhelm the dialogue.

 

Such lines as "If she did, you'd be an only child today" will have grammar lovers throwing their hands into the air in frustration at modern American ignorance of the past perfect, and the play may leave one with no heartfelt lasting moments; but it's a thoroughly entertaining look at how family members thrown together by circumstance but contrary by nature may fine-tune the clashes between them in values, fears, and wishes.

 

John P. Harvey

 

Images: (top - L–R) Paul Jackson, Lachlan Ruffy, Helen Vaughan-Roberts, Bridgette Black, Colin Milner, Elaine Noon, and Pippin Carroll (lower - L–R) Lachlan Ruffy and Pippin Carroll. Photographer: Helen Drum.

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