‘Lost in Yonkers’ pleases audience

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"Lost in Yonkers" actors junior Chester Shepard and junior Shane Miller delivered excellent entertainment portraying their lively characters (photo by Lydia Beers).
A din of voices filled the air. People rushed hurriedly to find their seats in the Everest-Rohrer auditorium, occasionally stopping to say hello to a friend or colleague. As the lights dimmed, a hush swept over the crowd. The audience sat back and waited expectantly for the show to begin. On Oct. 8, 9, and 10, Bethel College presented the show, “Lost in Yonkers,” by Neil Simon. The show, set in Yonkers, New York in the 1940s, centers on the dysfunctional Kurnitz family. Eddie (Scott Mason) must go south to find work, so that he can pay off his debts. He leaves his sons, Jay (Chester Shepherd) and Artie (Shane Miller) with his elderly German mother, Grandma Kurnitz (Sabrina Hallock). Grandma runs a candy store with her slightly retarded daughter, Bella (Jenny Reber). As Jay and Artie begin to adjust to life in their new home, their gangster Uncle Louie (Stephen Loewen) appears, looking for a place to lie low. As the play unfolds, Bella shares her desire to get married to a “reading-handicapped” movie usher, with her nephews. She desperately wants to escape her life, but does not know how to convince her mother, to let her leave. Jay and Artie agree to help her, but they have an objective of their own: to find the money Grandma Kurnitz has hidden somewhere in her house. This leads to confrontations with Uncle Louie, who “handles” money for others. The play comes to a head when Bella works up the courage to tell her family of her plan to get married and start a family of her own. In trying to explain why she wants to leave, Bella reveals the real reason behind the lack of family love—Grandma Kurnitz lost two of her children, and emotionally shut down to the rest of the world. Bethel’s Friday night performance got off to a rocky start, mostly because of the use of New York accents. The cast should be commended for embarking on such a risky and difficult task, especially because some cast members spent much of the performance slipping in and out of “New York” accents. Such a risky decision—in the end— paid off; the talents of Reber, Hallock, and Loewen managed to keep the premise afloat. As a whole, the cast and crew provided a good performance—each individual brought an assortment of talent to the stage. Once actress in particular, though, lit up the stage with a magnificent performance. Jenny Reber’s moving portrayal of Bella, a woman caught between her own dream and harsh reality, had the audience reaching for tissues and wiping away tears. Such a noteworthy performance deserves another round of applause. Bravo! *To read Joshua Mann's article, "Evolution of Yonkers" that tells of how the play came together follow this link: http://beacon.bethelcollege.edu/?p=2055
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