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Coming of age in a dysfunctional family

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By Gina Velasquez

Neil Simon has a way of storytelling that is serious, sprinkled with humor. He has often wrote about his own family experiences growing up and Lost in Yonkers is no exception. The Adobe Theater in Albuquerque presents the story of a Jewish family in 1942.
The play revolves around the Kurnitz family. Eddie Kurnitz, played by Vernon Poitras leave his two boys with their grandmother while he leaves town to try and solve a dire financial situation.
The boys are played by Nik Hoover as Jay and Vicente F. Vargas as Arty. The two fear the grandmother and are not looking forward to staying with her.
Their only salvation is their child-like, absent-minded aunt Bella, played by Kamila Kasparian.
The hard-as-nails matriarch was brilliantly portrayed by Ninette Mordaunt. She has the entire family walking on eggshells around her. As the story progresses, the audience discovers she cannot get beyond a grievance from the past, she became mean and bitter because of many losses. Facts are revealed throughout, which let the audience sympathize with the grandmother.
Kasparian’s portrayal of Bella is humorous and heartbreaking all at the same time. She brought tears to the eyes of some audience members with the line to Mordaunt. “You told me to be strong like steel… have you ever touch steel mama? It’s cold and hard. I want be warm and soft and loving.” To which Mordaunt replies, “I stopped feeling so I could stop hurting.”
The boys’ only communication with their traveling father is through letters with updates about what city he is and the fact that he is in ill health. The male figure for the boys is their wayward uncle Louie, who has ties to organized crime. Louie is played with accurate Yonkers attitude by Ned Record.
Louie reiterates to the boys not to be afraid of the grandmother and stand their ground with her, as he did once.
Since this story is set during World War II, the family has little money, but remain proud and strong, especially the grandmother and Louie.
Although the boys are young, these actors did a great job playing kids from a broken home “thrust upon a house of strangers.”
The older sister Gert, played by Teresa Longo, seemed to me a brief and superfluous character. Gert’s only purpose was that of a nerve-racked sibling, with an odd breathing problem.
Overall the acting was good, a few stutters and the coming and going of the “New York” accent aside.
Lost in Yonkers runs through July 21 at the Adobe Theater, 9813 4th Street in Albuquerque.