Lost in Yonkers

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The Little London Dinner Theater’s production of “Lost in Yonkers” is the sort of show you enjoy more than you should. Some of the acting is a bit off, and the tone is kind of flat — but darned if it’s not charming and likable anyway.

This is one of Neil Simon’s more dramatic, less jokey plays. Directed by Agnes Broberg, it’s about two teen-age boys in 1942 sent to live with their strict grandmother while their father heads out to work as a traveling salesman.

15-year-old Jay, played by Joshua Long, is the fretful brother; even when the character is happy, Long manages to look worried. 13-year-old Arty (Adam Gardner) is the craftier of the two, scheming against Grandma (Andrea Cottam) wherever possible and just generally being a wisenheimer.

Arty got those tendencies, it would seem, from Uncle Louie (David Phillips), a mid-level gangster who has a history of butting heads with Grandma. Phillips is great in this role, providing a lot of laughs and some solid characterization. (Jay, by the way, is more like his worrisome dad, played by Jason Boren, seen only in the first and last scenes.)

And then there’s Aunt Bella (Esther Covington), who lives with Grandma and is a ray of sunshine against the old bat’s perpetual raincloud. Bella is at least slow and possibly retarded. She goes to the movies often, partly to see an usher named Johnny whom she has feelings for — a thought that will terrify Grandma when she learns of it.

Kay’cee Hofheins also appears as the traumatized Aunt Gert, present only for a few moments in the second act but referred to — and made fun of — throughout.

Adam Gardner is above-average as young actors go. In a performance last weekend, he admirably covered another actor’s missed cue without missing a beat. He and Joshua Long are convincing as brothers, and Esther Covington is very sweet as Bella.

There is also much to admire in Andrea Cottam’s portrayal of Grandma. Her German accent is inconsistent, but her characterization is spot-on. It is Grandma who changes most over the course of the play, and Cottam handles it with grace and honesty.

Should you go? It doesn’t have the energy or pace of some recent Little London shows, but it is a worthy effort.

This was the last show I saw at Little London Dinner Theater. They did "A Christmas Carol" after this, but I wasn't seeing productions of "A Christmas Carol" that year. And after that, the theater closed due to financial problems. Community theaters that attempt to do the right thing by paying their actors always have financial problems, unfortunately.

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