Encore Michigan

Monster Box finds its way with “Lost in Yonkers”

Review December 10, 2016 David Kiley

WATERFORD TOWNSHIP—Well-timed to the 75th anniversary week of U.S. involvement in World War Two, Monster Box Theatre is presenting Neil Simons Lost in Yonkers this month, a Tony and Pulitzer winning play about a family broken apart about a year after the war started.

Comcast/Xfinity is a proud sponsor of EncoreMichigan and of professional theatre throughout Michigan.

Comcast/Xfinity is a proud sponsor of EncoreMichigan and of professional theatre throughout Michigan.

The story focuses on two young boys, 10-year old Arty (Alex Apalikhin) and 12-year old Jay (Trevor Stark) whose father, Eddie (Ken Overwater) has to hit the road for most of a year to sell scrap metal to weapons and war material manufacturers. They are forced to live with their closed-off, strict German grandmother as their own Mother had died of cancer. Along with Grandma Kurnitz Mary L Pettit), the boys live with their developmentally disabled Aunt Bella (Theodora Pardales), and encounter crooked but good-hearted Uncle Louie (Nate Brassfield) and gasping, exasperating Aunt Gert (Kim Janowicz).

Director Stacy Grutza does a good job of evoking a 1942 living room and dining room in a row house in Yonkers, and in presenting truly top-drawer material.

Pettit’s deft handling of Grandma Kurnitz absorbs a lot of attention in the play, from her spot-on German accent to the way she has wired herself not to show how much she loves her children and grandchildren when you can see through to her tough-love tender heart. She adores Alex and Arty, but dare not show it, the problem of a deep scar she bears from her own dead children.

Ms. Pardales deals with her complex and layered part with great tenderness and skill. At times the comedic lines don’t come naturally, but by the end of the play she is breaking our hearts. Mr. Brassfield plays a Cagney-Bogart hood who maybe has seen too many movies with those actors. But that’s the character, and he delivers on it very well as the bad son with a full heart who wants to help provide for and look after his Mother and sisters and nephews. He should be in the service, but he has avoided it by living under the radar with no real address.

In many ways the play has to turn on Arty and Jay. Apalikhin has a distinctly cherubic rascally look and delivery that works satisfactorily. Stark, too, delivers a performance that grows over the course of the play. He tries for the Yonkers accent, which comes off a tad heavy. At first, I wasn’t sure it wasn’t too heavy, but as Brassfied went for the same dialect, it started to blend into familiarity before the first act was over.

Lost in Yonkers is one of the great family stage dramas of the last 50 years, though with Neil Simon writing, it has plenty of laugh lines the way people would have no matter their circumstances.

Monster Box chose their material well, and the cast does a solid job of delivering on a play nobody wants to let down.

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