Simon is back on track with 'Lost in Yonkers'


January 21, 1991|By Lou Cedrone

Neil Simon's newest play, ''Lost In Yonkers,'' currently at the National in Washington, is good Simon. It may be a few minutes longer than necessary but is, overall, most satisfying.

Some will think the play autobiographical. In it, two of the principal characters are brothers, 13 and 15 years old. That much may be Simon because the lead male characters in all of Simon's autobiographical plays have had brothers. Let's hope, however, that the autobiographical references stop there. Let's hope that Simon never had a grandmother like this.

She is very well drawn. She is an unsmiling, ungiving woman who has been so badly treated by life that she is forever on guard. She will show no affection to her two grandsons, but then she has shown none to her four children.

Two have died. It was their deaths that persuaded the woman never to allow herself to love.

As adults, her children are a mess. One, the father of the boys, is widowed and owes $9,000 to a loan shark. In order to pay his debt, he must leave his sons with his mother and travel the South, where he buys and sells scrap iron.

Remaining with the grandmother is a daughter who may be slightly retarded. At times, she speaks as wisely as Solomon. At others, she is forgetful and childlike.

Simon wants to have it both ways with this character, who is so well played by Mercedes Ruehl that we are inclined to allow this contradiction.

Irene Worth is the grandmother, and she is immense. In the end, she betrays a touch of sentiment, but she is careful not to take this too far.

Kevin Spacey is excellent as the second son, uncle to the boys, who returns home with a little black bag that probably holds hot money. He is in the rackets, to the dismay of his mother and to the fascination of his nephews.

Jamie Marsh and Danny Gerard are the boys. They, too, do exceptionally well, but there should be less of them in the opening sequence. This is where Simon might cut if he decides to do so.

''Lost In Yonkers'' is a serio-comic play. As handled by the cast and as directed by Gene Saks, it is an evening worth experiencing.

''Lost in Yonkers'' will remain at the National through Feb. 10.

''Lost in Yorkers''

*** Two young boys find themselves living with their stern, unloving grandmother when their widowed father has to travel the road with his job.

CAST: Irene Worth, Mercedes Ruehl, Kevin Spacey, Danny Gerard, Jamie Marsh, Lauren Klein, Mark Blum


RUNNING TIME: Two hours and 40 minutes with one intermission.

TICKETS: (202) 628-6161

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