Park City will get ‘Lost in Yonkers’
Neil Simon’s award-winning 1990 play, "Lost in Yonkers," is a favorite for Richard Bugg, artistic director of the Neil Simon Festival.
The story is about two brothers named Arty and Jay who live with their grandmother while their father, a traveling salesman, tries to make ends meet after the death of his wife.
Bugg directed it back in 2005 and fell in love with the characters, the time period and the story.
"It is Neil Simon’s masterpiece," Bugg told The Park Record. "It won the Drama Desk Award and Tony Award for Best New Play and it also won the Pulitzer Prize for drama.
"It is also very funny, but at the same time very poignant and you end up crying as much as you laugh," he said.
The Neil Simon Festival will present "Lost in Yonkers" at the Egyptian Theatre in a four-day run from Thursday, Aug. 15, through Sunday, Aug. 18.
While the play is not particularly autobiographical, the two boys are the same age and have the same personalities as Simon and his brother Danny.
"Neil Simon sat down to write this in 1989 and set it in the early 1940s," Bugg explained. "I think he likes the 1940s, because it’s a time he remembers fondly.
"Throughout the writing, he kept asking himself ‘What if my father had to go off to work during those early war years and had to leave us with another family member?’ and things like that," Bugg said.
Simon also based characters on situations that emerged from his life including an uncle that he never met.
"The uncle was a bookkeeper who worked in the Garment District in New York," Bugg said. "One day the family announced that he had disappeared and was never heard from again. It was speculated, since the Mob had influence in the Garment District, that the uncle may be been done away with."
That incident had an impact on Simon, so when he decided to write "Lost in Yonkers," he made the Uncle Louie character a mobster.
"The characters just came along while he was writing," Bugg said.
The funny thing about the play is, Simon claimed in his 1996 autobiography, "Rewrites: A Memoir," that he didn’t write the play.
"He remembers sitting at the typewriter and writing something," Bugg said. "However, while during an awards ceremony afterwards, the presenters were going through some scenes he had written and when they got to ‘Lost in Yonkers,’ he sat there and listened and thought — ‘I wish I could write like that.’"
These are the kinds of plays that the Neil Simon Festival likes to program for each season, Bugg said.
"When I look at a season, a lot of factors go into the selection process," he said. "We look at shows by Simon and other playwrights as well that work for certain theater companies, so we can cross-cast. We also choose one or two that are recognizable for practical reasons, so we can get an audience.
"But the ultimate factor is great stories," Bugg said. "Neil Simon’s plays are all character driven and I believe in that kind of theater.
"It’s a wonderful show, and I feel that the Neil Simon Festival needs to present those kinds of plays," he said. "We need to tell stories about humanity and something we can relate to."
Bugg is happy to bring the production to Park City.
"This is one of the titles that most people recognize. It’s a wonderful piece and that’s why we’re doing it," he said. "I directed it (seven years ago) and I thought about letting someone else direct it this time around, but I couldn’t let it go. I have a love affair with this piece."
The Neil Simon Festival will present "Lost in Yonkers" at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St., Thursday through Sunday, Aug. 15-18. Evening curtain for Thursday, Friday and Saturday is 8 p.m. Sunday’s performance will be at 6 p.m. There will be a Saturday matinee at 4 p.m. Tickets range from $23 to $40 and are available at http://www.parkcityshows.com.
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