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Lost in Yonkers

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Playwright Neil Simon won the Pulitzer prize in 1991 for this play, Lost in Yonkers, and it was a Broadway hit. Such good fortune has not shone on Mr. Simon of late. In the fall of 2009, "in" director David Cromer was to direct both Broadway Bound and Brighton Beach Memoirs in repertory. Yet despite his top credentials, and the plays' previous success, the "Neil Simon Plays," as they were known, could not find an audience and closed before they ever got off the ground. Cromer went on to direct the successful Our Town at the Barrow Street Theater as well as Tribes, now at the Barrow.


Yet the play Lost in Yonkers seemed unaffected by the lackluster showing for the two other Simon plays. The Old Globe Theater in San Diego presented it in their theater in the square, and now it is at the Beckett Theater on theater row, where I saw it last week. The play is about two young brothers left to live with their crusty grandmother when their single father has to leave town to find work.


The 42d St. production is very well done. The actors perform well, the set is very nice, and the audiences seem to be responding. I enjoyed the show. But, I also had seen the production at the Old Globe, which also featured actors who performed well and a good set. Because of the theater in the square setting, a more intimate feeling could be created with the actors. What I thought was missing from the current show is the heart that Simon plays are known for. Given that the actors perform well, I tried hard to lay a finger on what I thought was missing, and this seems to be it. It was not just the setting that made the San Diego play a success, I think the actors, perhaps more experienced, were able to bring out the emotional side of Neil Simon better than those performing now. It's a hard thing to measure, usually you know it when you see it. Since most of the audience for the Beckett Theater will have not seen the Old Globe show, they may not know what they are missing.


What they will see is a perfectly good rendering of a play, but the depth of feeling it contains may not come across.

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