Western Reserve Playhouse’s ‘Yonkers’ ‘excellent’

2/1/2018 – West Side Leader
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By David Ritchey

Photo Credit – Chris Douglas

Sharing a scene in Western Reserve Playhouse’s “Lost in Yonkers” are, from left, Shani Ferry, Beth Gaiser, Robbie Rush, James Patrick, August Scarpelli and Harriet DeVeto.

Photo courtesy of Western Reserve Playhouse

BATH — Western Reserve Playhouse opened its 2018 season with Neil Simon’s “Lost in Yonkers,” which will run through Feb. 10.Artistic Director Dawn Sniadak-Yamokoski and Co-artistic Director Brian Westerley are leaving their mark on the theater and helping to bring new audiences to the theater. Audiences are sure to see great changes as the theater changes.

Simon received the Pulitzer Prize and the Tony Award for “Lost in Yonkers,” which is a delicate story of a family struggling to remain a family in 1942.

As the story opens, Jay (Robbie Rush) is grieving the death of his wife from cancer. He struggled to pay for the medicine he bought when his wife was ill. He now has to find someone to take care of his two teenage sons, Arty (James Patrick) and Eddie (Jay Hill). He will have to leave his two sons with his mother while he becomes a traveling salesman in an attempt to pay off his debts.

Grandma Kurnitz (Harriet DeVeto) doesn’t want to care for her grandsons, but finally agrees to help. She is a dictator in her home.

Louie (August Scarpelli) is a single man, the brother of Jay and the uncle of Arty and Eddie. As the story unfolds, the audience learns Louie is a gangster.

Bella (Shani Ferry) is Jay’s slowwitted sister. She lives with her mother and helps care for her mother’s ice cream store. Bella wants to marry and have children. However, the man she wants to marry is not willing to leave his parents and get a job working outside of the movie theater.

Gert (Beth Gaiser) is another sister of Jay, Bella and Louie. She has a speech problem brought about by her mother’s dictatorship.

Director Keith Stevens kept the story moving at a brisk pace. The script is well written and challenges the cast and audience to watch the action of the story.

The director chose a superior cast. DeVeto is excellent as the difficult Grandmother Kurnitz. She seems at times to become a loving woman but just as quickly becomes tough and unhappy because of her life in Germany.

Patrick and Rush do a masterful job of slowly evolving. The two teenagers play their first scenes resenting their grandmother, but as the story unfolds, they find ways to live with their grandmother and not destroy themselves. These changes are slow, deliberate and entertaining.

This is an excellent production of a well-written show.

For ticket information, call 330-620-7314 or visit www.westernreserveplayhouse.org.


David Ritchey has a Ph.D. in communications and is a professor of communications at The University of Akron. He is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and the Cleveland Critics Circle.