Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Reader's Diary #2049- Neil Simon: Lost in Yonkers

Lost in Yonkers, a play by Neil Simon, isn't necessarily fun but it's also not without some dark, dry wit here and there.

Basically it’s a dysfunctional family story about a multi-generational family living in New York in the early 40s. A couple of teenage boys are dropped off to live with their cold, impatient grandmother after their mother dies and their father needs to hit the road for work. There’s also an aunt with an unspecified cognitive disability and a low-tier gangster uncle.

There seems to be some debate in review circles whether or not books need to have likeable characters. Given the focus on dysfunction, it was quite likely for this play to become overbearing. Centering it on the boys though allowed me characters to root for. Would their grandmother’s bitterness lead them into a life of crime like their uncle or would they remain optimistic and warm like their aunt?

In addition to the plot, Simon has given some pretty decent character studies. In particular, the grandmother character becomes far more easy to empathize with before the play is through, though never rises to the level of sympathy. Less successful for me was the aunt character. What could be a compelling look at the sexuality of adults with special needs is hampered somewhat by an inconsistent and too-convenient range of cognitive abilities. Nonetheless, she is a charmer.

I'd be curious to see the play or movie though as it felt somewhat short, almost sit-com length.

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