Lost in Yonkers
|Lost in Yonkers|
Original Broadway poster
|Written by||Neil Simon|
|Date premiered||December 31, 1990|
|Place premiered||The Center for the Performing Arts
Winston-Salem, NC, United States
|Setting||An apartment in Yonkers, New York, 1942|
The play premiered at The Center for the Performing Arts in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, on December 31, 1990, before moving to Broadway at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on February 21, 1991, where it ran for 780 performances and eleven previews. Produced by Emanuel Azenberg and directed by Gene Saks, the cast included Jamie Marsh as Jay, Irene Worth as Grandma, Mercedes Ruehl as Bella, Kevin Spacey as Louie, Lauren Klein as Gert, Danny Gerard as Arty, and Mark Blum as Eddie.
Lost in Yonkers is a coming-of-age tale that focuses on Jay Kurnitz, left in the care of his grandmother and Aunt Bella in Yonkers, New York. Jay's father, Eddie, works as a traveling salesman to pay off debts incurred following the death of his wife. Distraught Jay is also called upon to raise his younger brother Arty. Grandma is a severe, frightfully intimidating German Jewish immigrant who terrified her children as they were growing up, damaging each of them to varying degrees. Bella is a sweet, but mentally retarded and highly excitable woman who longs to marry an usher at the local movie house so she can escape the oppressive household and create a life and family of her own. Jay's uncle Louie is a small-time, tough-talking hoodlum, while his aunt Gert suffers from a breathing problem which is more psychological than physical. Jay must spend a year in the midst of the turmoil throughout the household. He encourages Bella to stand up to Grandma. When she does so, she moves away from Yonkers, leaving Jay and Arty in the house to put up with Grandma's abuse alone. Emotionally drained, Jay must come to terms with his life in Yonkers. Bella eventually returns, prepared to face her mother as an equal. Missing much of the sentimentality of other Simon plays, Lost in Yonkers climaxes with a dramatic confrontation that creates a permanent fissure in Jay and his highly dysfunctional family.
Jay: He is fifteen years old. He is an independent, self-serving jokester, who sometimes gets carried away with the situations going on around him. The play tells his coming-of-age story. Originally played on Broadway by Jamie Marsh.
Arty: Jay's younger brother, he is 13 years old. More of an observer than the rest of his family, he often goes with the flow of things, but also can be a little childish. Originally played on Broadway by Danny Gerard.
Bella: Jay's thirty-five-year-old aunt. She is sometimes a bit off-center and is mentally challenged, but despite this she is also loving and protective of her nephews. Much of the second half of the play focuses on her attempts at independence from her stern mother. Originally played on Broadway by Mercedes Ruehl and later Lucie Arnaz who took over from Ruehl.
Louie: Jay's flamboyant, jovial uncle, in his late 30s, who comes to live with the family when he is hiding from the local mob. He is considered by Grandma Kurnitz to be the "survivor" of the family. He has a strong, mercurial nature, and a certain underlying dark side, which the kids uncover in the second act of the play. He works as a "bag-man" for the mob. Originally played on Broadway by Kevin Spacey.
Grandma Kurnitz: Jay's grandmother. A very old and stern woman. Owing to her harsh childhood, she has always been very intolerant of what in others she calls "weaknesses". She is blunt, sometimes even in a funny way, and always knows what is going on with the people around her. Originally played on Broadway by Irene Worth.
Eddie: Jay's middle-aged father. After the death of his wife, he is forced to send his two sons to live with their grandmother, while he repays his large financial debts. He is shown to be, much like his sisters, a nervous wreck around Grandma. Originally played on Broadway by Mark Blum.
Gert: Jay's aunt, and Grandma's daughter. She is a very interesting addition to the family. Her most noticeable issue is that when she breathes she has a tendency to suck in while still speaking, as a result of trauma instilled in her by Grandma from a young age. Originally played on Broadway by Lauren Klein.
Simon adapted his play for a 1993 feature film directed by Martha Coolidge, and starring Brad Stoll as Jay. Worth and Ruehl reprised their stage roles, and Richard Dreyfuss was cast as Louie. Bella's beau Johnny, an unseen character in the play, was portrayed by David Strathairn.
Awards and nominations
Source: Playbill Vault
- 1991 Drama Desk Award for Best New Play
- 1991 Pulitzer Prize for Drama
- 1991 Tony Award for Best Play
- 1991 Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play (Mercedes Ruehl)
- 1991 Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play (Irene Worth)
- 1991 Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play (Kevin Spacey)
- 1991 Tony Award Direction of a Play (Gene Saks)
- 1991 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Costume Design (Santo Loquasto)
- "Lost in Yonkers". Samuel French.
- "Stevens Center".
- Frank Rich (22 February 1991). "Review/Theater: Simon on Love Denied". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-06-26.
- Maslin, Janet. "Movie Review. 'Lost in Yonkers '(1993)" The New York Times, May 14, 1993
- Lost in Yonkers playbillvault.com, accessed April 14, 2012
- "Drama Winners and Finalists" pulitzer.org, accessed April 12, 2012
Filmed in Ludlow, KY