In live theater when an actor bares their soul on stage, the audience is fully present, sharing a transcendent moment of emotion and given an extraordinary gift to recognize the fragility and the humanity of others. Such a transcendent moment occurs in the outstanding performance of Holly Martin as Bella in the Warner Stage Company’s production of Neil Simon’s award winning play “Lost in Yonkers”, directed by Keith Paul on the Nancy Marine Studio Theater Stage in Torrington.
The black box theater was transformed into the living room and dining room of a flawed and broken family living in Yonkers, New York in 1942 thanks to a set built by Steve Houk. The old fold out couch, the old time radio, the wall paper and paintings on the wall all provide the loving detail of a home instantly recognizable to those with grandparents of that generation. This the dwelling of the hardened and stoic-to-a-fault Grandma Kurnitz, ably portrayed by Karen Parent, and Bella, her 35 year old daughter who is challenged with a childlike mentality but with an adult woman’s desires. Into this setting two young brothers, Jay and Artie, are thrust, a pair played with considerable skill by Michael Rooney and Colby Morkan. In the opening act, the boys’ emotional father Eddie, played by James Hyland, must convince Grandma Kurnitz to allow the children to stay for a year while he works as a traveling salesman to make enough money to pay off heavy debts.
Rooney and Morkan have an easy sibling rapport and deliver their lines often in great humor, sometimes with frustration and sometimes in fear of their demanding grandmother. Through their eyes the audience perceives the dysfunctional world of the older relatives. The boys admire their smalltime gangster uncle Louie, played with a special jocularity that can turn dangerous on a dime by Eric Hammer, the toughest of all Grandma Kurnitz’s children. The final piece of the familial puzzle, Gert, the aunt with a breathing problem brought on by stress, is played by Beverly Delventhal-Sal who arrives in the latter portion of the show.
Because it’s a Neil Simon play, there are laughs aplenty throughout the entire show but as the director writes in the program notes, Lost in Yonkers has “more meat on the bones” than other works of the celebrated playwright so there are powerful dramatic elements especially as it relates to the relationship dynamic between Holly Martin’s “Bella” and Karen Parent’s “Grandma Kurnitz”. At times uproariously funny and at times tragic, Martin’s Bella, as has been described in other reviews, is thoroughly convincing. I’ve previously enjoyed Martin’s comedic work on “The 39 Steps” beside the unflappable Dick Terhune, but in this current role there is an additional great dramatic turn and Martin is up to the challenge, giving her all for this powerful performance.
There are two more chances to see the show 3/12/2016 at 8pm and 3/13 at 2pm
Contact the box office or use the new Warner Theater APP for more information on tickets.
Categories: Torrington Stories