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A CurtainUp Review
Lost In Yonkers
Grandma, born in Germany, is now living in a Yonkers apartment over her ice cream shop. The apartment is stifling —- not just because it pre-dates air conditioning but visually and emotionally. The walls, the rugs, the chairs are an ugly brown and Grandma's mood is always dark if not vicious.
Injured in Berlin in her youth and emotionally damaged after the deaths of two of her four children, Grandma is incapable of love. No one leaves her presence unscathed. Tana Hicken tackles the role with grim fortitude. As her always childlike daughter Bella, described by one of her siblings as being "closed for repairs," Holly Twyford is heart-breakingly simple minded, yet clear in her emotions. She has never been on the receiving end of love but she certainly knows how to give it.
While Bella is able to maintain her Bronx accent, Tana Hicken's German-American wafts in and out. It's an annoyance but a small one. Both actresses are very well known and highly regarded in Washington where they've been paired before and no doubt will be again— especially after their performances here.
Some of the best moments come at the end of the play when Grandma is confronted by the grandsons she has been forced to take in while her son and their widowed father works at his well paid job as a traveling saleman - so that he can pay off debts incurred during his wife's fatal disease. As Artie, the 16-year-old younger grandson, Max Talismanstrikes poses as he moves about the stage like a flat-footed old man. That does not stop him from landing some of his jokey lines just so. As Jay, the older brother, stoop-shouldered and gawky, Kyle Schliefer is fine when not losing track of the Bronx accent. Kevin Bergen as Eddie, their physically and emotionally frail fatherseems a bit too wishy-washy. Nothing about him says New York or Jewish.
Eddie's other siblings, also scarred by their mother's cold, pecunious and heartless manner, are caricatures of the grown up version of a damaged child. Gert (expertly played by Lise Bruneau) handles her character's idiosyncratic breathing problems —- another kind of reference to the stifling environment created by Grandma's presence— and Marcus Kyd's Louie is as slick as his hair pomade. Under Jerry Whiddon's direction and problems with accents and Jewishness aside, the cast does well in reviving what many consider Neil Simon's most profound play. Maybe this Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner is the one that should have been revived on Broadway instead of the ill-fated (Brighton Beach Memoirs.