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OdysseyStage Preview: OdysseyStage Presents Lost in Yonkers, Neil Simon's 1991 Pulitzer Prize Winner

May 9, 2003 - Chapel Hill, NC:


OdysseyStage, one of the Triangle's premier community theaters, will present Broadway King of Comedy Neil Simon's award-winning comedy, Lost in Yonkers, May 9-18 at St. Thomas More School in Chapel Hill, NC. Set in Yonkers, NY, in the 1940s, Lost in Yonkers won the 1991 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and four 1991 Tony® Awards (including Best Play).

"I read this play and was AD [assistant director] and costume designer on a production of Lost in Yonkers about seven or eight years ago which [my husband] Alan directed in Burlington," says director Sheryle Criswell. "I fell in love with the play. When the opportunity arose for me to personally direct it this year, I jumped at the chance."

Criswell says, "The thing that makes this play special is the 'real' characters. They are our families. They are us. And the complexities of their relationships are things we can all relate to."

Criswell briefly outlines the plot for Lost in Yonkers as follows. "It's 1942," she explains, "and Neil Simon gives us a nuclear family that clearly has some protons missing. Grandma Kurnitz (Sylvia Dante) is a fearsome German-Jewish tyrant who has ruled her family with an iron fist and, in so doing, has terrorized her children, now grown: Bella (Megan Mazzocchi) is a delightful soul who is a little like a female Forrest Gump. Gert (Maria Gargano) is so nervous that she sometimes forgets to stop talking when she inhales... the result is hilarious agony. Eddie (David Dollar) is panic stricken when he has to persuade Grandma to take in his young daughters Rae (Dani Nowell) and Marty (Mary Clare Mazzocchi), so that he can go off to a traveling job selling scrap iron during WWII [so he can] pay for his deceased wife's funeral. Only his brother Louie (John Paul Middlesworth), a small-time gangster, seems unafraid of Grandma. Or is he?"

Staging Lost in Yonkers at St. Thomas More School challenges the creativity and resourcefulness of director and set designer Sheryle Criswell, lighting designer Larry Evans, costume designer Karen Guidry, sound designers Jane Waddell and Lisa Hirsh, and music designer Al Singer.

Criswell says, "The biggest challenge for me was casting the play with two girls playing the traditional boy's roles. After auditions for this show, it became clear to me that it would be almost impossible for me to realize this play with the young male talent that I had to choose from. I decided to take a huge leap of faith and cast it with two girls, the oldest 14, the youngest only 9. It was, in my humble opinion, a brilliant move. These kids are sensational and give the script a whole other interpretation."

Sheryle Criswell confidently expects OdysseyStage audiences to love Lost in Yonkers as much as she does. "This beautiful, funny, and heart-wrenching play is said to be Neil Simon's best work," she says. "It is deeply layered, so that the more you get into it and the family the more complexities begin to surface."

OdysseyStage presents Lost in Yonkers Friday-Saturday, May 9-10 and 16-17, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, May 11 and 18, at 3 p.m. at St. Thomas More School, 920 Carmichael St., Chapel Hill, North Carolina. $12 ($10 students, seniors, and active-duty military personnel). 919/479-7316 or 309-9286 or simplegifts@attglobal.net or paula_scotland@mindspring.com. http://www.odysseystagetheatre.org/.