Neil Simon is one of America’s great comic playwrights. In 1991, his play “Lost in Yonkers,” currently running at Clague Playhouse, premiered on Broadway and garnered the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Simon veered away from his usual route of sentimentality by concluding this piece with a dramatic confrontation that leaves each player involved with a fractured conscience, but new resolve. But as is stated within, everything hurts. All good comes with a price. These characters are rich and textured with identifiable affectations that fuel the storyline with great nuance.
The set design is gorgeous. Ron Newell continues his reign of excellence. It is miraculous how Newell constantly changes the inner belly of Clague and the results are always stunning. D. Justin Bilewicz, III provides great period costumes. However, the wig for Grandma Kurnitz does not cover her real hair and is distracting but, other than that, it is dead-on work. Lighting (Lance Switzer) and sound (Charles Hardgrave) design are right on target.
Tyson Douglas Rand (Director) casts the show well. Under his watchful eye, the play moves swiftly--sometimes too swiftly--but resulting in an enjoyable presentation of family dynamics at its best. Rand guides the younger actors to hold their own against the adult characters. Rand provides chaotic delight and slows the pace to accentuate the moments that break your heart.
Jake Ingression (Jay) and Elliot Lockshine (Arty) are state-of-the-art brothers. Each creates unique a persona but interacts with genuine care and compassion, with some brotherly antics thrown in for good measure. Ingrassia takes on the older brother with great finesse. Being the emotional core of the play, we get to watch his growth as a teenager moving to handle adult responsibilities, oh too soon, complete with humor and pathos. Lockshine, on the other hand, embodies Arty with machine gun like one-liners. He is hilarious and delivers a strong performance as the youngest contender on the boards. As younger actors, they just need to watch checking out the audience but, besides that, they are terrific.
Jeff Lockshine (Eddie) provides a terrific father figure. It might help that his real son is in the production, which is a delight to watch on another level. Mr. Lockshine lets us see brutal honesty, and provides levels of emotion that help us see the struggle that goes into those decisions that are not popular, but are “what’s best for the family.” His travel vignettes are deftly played and enable us to maintain an emotional bond while his character is away from the family. Meg Parish as Grandma Kurnitz is a blast--a demolition blast! Her presence is strong and commands attention. She could deflate a room full of balloons just by entering. But her crusty shell, hardened by years of struggle and loss, hides a heart that truly cares. She is a bitter pill, but forces others around her to rise to the challenge of being strong and self-sufficient.
Chris Bizub provides Uncle Louie with a brash “are you talking to me?” attitude. He is able to develop tangible sides to his crook demeanor. Always brash and self-consuming, he is still able to reveal a caring nature at the most critical moments. Well done! Lisa Margevicius as Gert is a psychosomatic hot mess. What a joy it must be to play a last-minute character and be a comic delight. Gert is a one trick pony, but Margevicius plays her to grand effect and looks beautiful while doing it.
Then we come to centerpiece of the evening. Elaine Feagler as Bella is a revelation--a beautifully constructed character that melts your heart at every turn. Feagler completely embodies Bella with warmth and charm, and handles the mental illness with such skill that it seems not so far from what we experience ourselves on occasion. When Bella finally takes a stand and resolves her ambitions with reality, it feels like we have traveled with her through the entire journey.
Clague Playhouse is a gem. Many talented actors, directors, and technicians have worked there over the years, and it strongly continues. Thankfully.
Kevin Joseph Kelly
March 7 - March 30
$10-$16 Reserved Seating
1371 Clague Road
Westlake, Ohio 44145