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Lost in Yonkers is perhaps Neil Simon’s most serious play. While this 1991 Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner certainly contains much of the funny banter we expect from this prolific American playwright, it also takes steps into the depth of the human condition – exploring how we all struggle to get down our paths, and how we need each other – especially in families – to make those paths more bearable.

In the hands of director Jim LaMonte and his excellently cast actors and actresses, Simon’s study in human frailties is given a lively rendition. Centered around two wonderfully portrayed young brothers, Jay and Arty – who due to circumstances in their father’s life must be left for a time with their harshly strict grandmother – the cast of characters includes an excitable child-like aunt, a small-time gangster uncle and an aunt with a breathing problem which is masterfully written to be very funny.

Jude Binkley and Christian Baltz turn in admirable performances as the two brothers. Young Binkley makes his Indiana debut, coming from what looks like a promising theatre background in central Ohio, while the younger Baltz makes his acting debut. Both handle their good sized roles with effectiveness, including quite a few scenes when just the two of them share the stage. The role of their father, Eddie, is carried out in strong fashion by Spotlight Theatre veteran, Jeremy Tuterow. Their mentally discounted Aunt Bella is done by Jean Childers Arnold in what I thought was an amazingly professional turn. Ms. Arnold fills her portrayal with adroit characteristics of body language and vocal levels, showing a complete understanding of Bella’s internal makeup. Her performance was a faultless achievement to watch and enjoy.

It was also a treat to see Joe Aiello on stage again – recreating the role of mobster bagman Uncle Louie which he did a number of years ago at The Belfry. Aiello brings just enough “shtick” to the part, never going over the edge into a cartoonish quality. His rapid-fire delivery is unmatched as he teases and tests his nephews or accommodates his limited sister Bella. Nan Macy returns to the boards as Grandma Kurnitz, the seemingly hard-hearted matriarch. Ms. Macy combines a hard crustiness with a harder life-philosophy in her handling of the perfectly accented, costumed and made-up old lady. She is a sublime choice for this role. Rounding out the cast in a winning comic depiction is Robin Cottrell, who makes the most of a small role as the wheezy-voiced Aunt Gert.

LaMonte’s direction is crisp and never allows a lag in the action. The scene-changes come off well over a nice music bed to keep the audience engaged, and the set is well designed and decorated. If I were to find any flaw in the production, it might be the seeming disallowance of any slowing of pace for many of the more tender moments, but that would be a slight stretch as, although I may have noticed the timing issues in those places, it is likely others did not. All in all, this is a wholly enjoyable theatre production and I recommend it.

Neil Simon’s Lost in Yonkers continues May 3,4,8,9,10 and 11 at CCP’s Carmel Community Playhouse in Clay Terrace. Information about the dates, times and ticket prices can be found at http://www.carmelplayers.org or by calling the CCP box office at (317) 815-9387.

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