AUBURN – “Lost in Yonkers” is a play that promises to give audiences some highly entertaining and moving evenings in its upcoming run at Community Little Theatre June 19-28.

“To my way of thinking, ‘Lost in Yonkers’ is one of Neil Simon’s best plays,” said Dick Rosenberg, veteran director and actor with CLT. He added that the cast he directs in this show has achieved a production that “is exactly what I hoped it would be.”

“Lost in Yonkers,” a Pulitzer Prize-winning play, has plenty of the signature Simon wit, but it’s a hybrid of comedy and drama.

“It sits there in the middle,” Rosenberg said. The frequent humor is balanced by a strong, deep story.

This coming-of-age story paints a vivid picture of American family life in the 1940s. Set above a candy store in New York, “Lost in Yonkers” tells of two young brothers who come to live with their strict German grandmother during World War II. Their father is away, struggling to earn money to pay off a loan shark.

While awaiting the return of their father, the boys wrestle to contain their fiery wit as a host of relatives (each one more eccentric than the last) enters their lives. There’s a mobster uncle, a lovesick childlike aunt and an overbearing and hard-as-steel grandmother.

The boys find themselves nose to nose with a family that can be as sweet and hard as the candy they peddle downstairs.

Duncan Gelder and Ben Dostie, who are students in area schools, play the two boys, Jay and Arty.

Jeff Taber portrays the father, Eddie Kurnitz, and Michelle Vazquez Jacobus plays Bella Kurnitz, the mentally impaired and child-like aunt who finds extraordinary ways to cope in her dysfunctional family.

Muriel Kenderdine plays Grandma Kurnitz, the tough German immigrant who intimidates the boys just as she did her own children. Kenderdine will be remembered for her lead role opposite Rosenberg in CLT’s production of “On Golden Pond” a few years ago.

Duane Glover has the role of Louie Kurnitz, a small-time henchman for the mob, and Tami Burhoe is Aunt Gert.

This is a play about family. Simon explores the big and little things that hold them together – and also pull them apart. The main themes include survival, acceptance and the importance of one’s family. Simon skillfully meshes both the deep levels of pain in his characters and the emotional release that comes from the humorous dialogue.

Members of the production staff for “Lost in Yonkers” include Alison Leigh Traynor, assistant director; Karen McArthur, producer; Vicki Machado, stage manager; Richard Martin, lighting designer; Chad Gagnon, sound design; Kate Sicotte and Donald Sicotte, properties; and Doreen Traynor, costume designer.

Set decor is by Carole Rosenberg and Robin Profenno Woodcock, with Tim Traynor, lead set construction; and Chad Gagnon, technical adviser.


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