Lost in Yonkers, Revised With the Blessing of Neil Simon, Opens in NYC; Cynthia Harris Is Grandma

By Kenneth Jones
March 22, 2012

Cynthia Harris is the imperious immigrant grandmother in TACT/The Actors Company Theatre revival of Neil Simon's Pulitzer Prize-winning Lost in Yonkers, opening March 22 following previews from March 13 at Off-Broadway's Beckett Theatre. Simon has given the respected company permission to explore a revision in the text. 



TACT co-artistic director Jenn Thompson (The Eccentricities of a Nightingale, The Memorandum, The Late Christopher Bean) directs the first New York City revival of Simon's 1991 play about young brothers who are dropped off at their steely grandmother's home to witness the tension between Grandma and their yearning Aunt Bella (played by Finnerty Steeves, of Broadway's recent Brighton Beach Memoirs, Off-Broadway's Almost Maine). The play also won Simon the Tony Award for Best Play.

TACT is "dedicated to presenting neglected or rarely produced plays of literary merit." Its co-artistics directors are Scott Alan Evans, Cynthia Harris and Thompson.

Director Thompson said in statement, "We loved Lost in Yonkers, particularly its heart and its courage to explore some very painful places. We were interested to see what would happen if we were to heighten that core. The intimacy of our home at the Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row allows us to examine the play in a subtler way than in a Broadway theatre, so we wondered how it would unfold if we were to remove the voice-over transitions that, as written, occur several times throughout the play.

"To explore and test this idea, the cast read through the script without the transitions to hear how it would influence the story. What we discovered was eye-opening: Without them, the play picked up a palpable momentum that allows us to keep focused on the young boys' bereavement and the collision course between Grandma Kurnitz and Bella. It all seems much more immediate and exposed. We were thrilled when we received consent from Mr. Simon to present the play in this way. We're so excited to be bringing this important work — by an American master — to our New York audiences in this more intimate and streamlined way."

In addition to TACT co-artistic director and company member Harris ("Mad About You," Bedroom Farce, The Cocktail Party), The Lost in Yonkers cast includes guest artists Alec Beard (Broadway's Tartuffe) as shady Uncle Louie, Dominic Comperatore (Broadway's A View From the Bridge) as beleaguered, debt-ridden widower Eddie, Stephanie Cozart (Portland Stage's recent The Syringa Tree) as asthmatic Aunt Gert, Matthew Gumley (Broadway's Elf, The Addams Family, Mary Poppins, Beauty and the Beast) as Eddie's 15-year-old son Jay and Russell Posner (New York stage debut) as 13-year-old son Artie.

The creative team includes John McDermott (sets), David Toser (costumes), Martin E. Vreeland (lights), Toby Algya (sound) and Lauren Madden (properties). Jack Gianino is production stage manager.

The original production of Lost in Yonkers played 780 performances at Broadway's Richard Rodgers Theatre. Gene Saks directed Irene Worth, Mercedes Ruehl and Kevin Spacey (all of them won Tony Awards for their performances). Simon wrote the later screenplay for the 1993 film directed by Martha Coolidge, starring Richard Dreyfus with Worth and Ruehl repeating their roles.

Theatre Row's Beckett Theatre is at 410 W. 42nd Street between 9th & 10th Avenues. Performances will continue through April 14 on the following schedule: Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday at 7:30 PM; Friday at 8 PM; Saturday at 2 PM & 8 PM; Sunday at 2 PM.

Tickets are $20-$56.25 and will be available through TeleCharge.com or at (212) 239-6200.

Visit tactnyc.org.

*

Check out TACT's Surround Events schedule, designed to enhance the Lost in Yonkers experience. A talkback with Manny Azenberg, Neil Simon's longtime producer, is on the slate.