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Lost in Yonkers Audio, Cassette – Unabridged, January 9, 2002

4.5 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Audio, Cassette, Unabridged, January 9, 2002
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Simon's 1991 Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning play about two young boys who are forced to live for a year with their domineering, ill-tempered grandmother while their father takes a job in another state is beautifully realized by the L.A. Theatre Works cast. Like most of Simon's works, this one features an eccentric cast of characters. Listeners meet Aunt Gert (played by Gia Carides), whose voice frequently switches into a wheeze midsentence, and Uncle Louie (played by Dan Castellaneta), a Bogart-like gangster. This production realizes Simon's trademark mix of comedy and drama: the one-liners are hilarious, but the characters' sad, dysfunctional relationships are poignant. The compassionate, three-dimensional performances, combined with Simon's nuanced writing and authentic rendering of 1940s speech, make the listener fully believe in these realistic, complex characters. Standout performers include Roxanne Hart as the boys' kindhearted but nervous Aunt Bella and Barbara Bain as Grandma Kurnitz, whose tough, coldhearted exterior is a reaction to a lifetime of devastating pain and loss. Also excellent are Ben Diskin and Kenneth Schmidt as the young boys. At first lonely and miserable, fearing and hating their stern grandmother, they gradually come to respect and understand her. Based on the Random House hardcover.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Preloaded Digital Audio Player edition.

From School Library Journal

YA-- An insightful drama about one woman's drive and its emotional toll on her and her family. Grandma Kurnitz has endured many crises, ranging from a harsh childhood in Germany to being a young widow with six children in a foreign country. From her life she learned to be strong, hard, and cold, and this is the lesson she tries to instill in her four remaining children. While her two teenage grandsons are in her care, the three learn the importance of being loved and loving, and the difference between living and surviving. The themes of family ties and the search for love should strike a responsive chord with many young adults.

Patricia A. Long, R.E. Lee High School, Springfield

Copyright 1992 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Preloaded Digital Audio Player edition.
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Product Details

  • Audio Cassette
  • Publisher: L.A. Theatre Works; Unabridged edition (January 9, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1580812120
  • ISBN-13: 978-1580812122
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 4.7 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,153,857 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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The Skinny

Jay and Arty come to live with Grandma and Aunt Bella after their mother dies. Their father, Eddie, cannot serve in the military, so he is a traveling salesman throughout the south. He sells metals – steel, mostly – to benefit the military and contribute to the war. They learn interesting things about their Aunt Bella and Uncle Louie, both who have their own struggles, while trying to please their hard-nosed German grandmother.

The Players
Jay – called Yakob by Grandma

Arty – called Artur by Grandma

Eddie – Jay and Arty’s father, he is a traveling salesman selling metals for the military, known to be sickly

Grandma – a hard, cold German woman, escaped Berlin, owns a candy store

Aunt Bella – Jay and Arty’s aunt, she lives with Grandma and works in the candy store, has the mindset of a child

Uncle Louie – Jay and Arty’s uncle, he is rarely around and seems to take part in nefarious activities

Aunt Gert – Jay and Arty’s aunt, she has a speech impediment

The Highs and Lows
Jay and Arty. The two are wide-eyed coming to live with Grandma. They know virtually nothing about their relatives, since they’ve never really visited. They are a quiet, cute duo who are piecing together and learning the history of Grandma, Bella, Louie and Gert.

Grandma. She is a hard, cold, steeled woman who does not believe in showing any emotion. A display that could be interpreted as weakness disgusts her. She suffered in her escape from Berlin, and although she has buried her husband and even some of her own children at young ages, she does not cry. In this, she has pushed the rest of her children away. She keeps a tight reign on the candy store and knows when even a pretzel has gone missing.
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Along with Brighton Beach Memoirs and Broadway Bound, I believe Lost in Yonkers is Simon's best play--addressing the issue of non-conformity. The protagonist, Bella is a beat or three off but has a good heart and a lot of guts. I love script but alas not the LA TheatreWorks production, which is too antiseptic. Instead, watch the movie. Mercedes Ruehl gives an Oscar-nominated, fabulous performance as Bella.
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Format: Paperback
Set in Yonkers, New York, in 1942, this Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning play captures the tumult of the period by focusing on the lives of three generations of one family, all of whom are dealing with personal issues in addition to the traumas of World War II. Arty, age 13, and Jay, age 15, whose mother has just died of cancer, must move in with their stern immigrant grandmother and sweet, but ditzy, Aunt Bella while their father works for ten months in the South.

Grandma Kurnitz, who (ironically) runs a sweet shop, is embittered by her life: only four of her six children survive, and none of them are close to her. She does not know her grandchildren and does not want them living with her and messing up her life and her house, facts she makes plain to the boys from the outset. Ruling with an iron hand, she terrifies everyone around her.

The coming-of-age of Arty and Jay, as they learn to deal with Grandma and eventually learn to respect her, is not without its complications as the rest of the family involves the boys in their own issues. Aunt Bella, who is mentally and emotionally a child, falls in love. Aunt Gert, who can speak only as she exhales, and wheezes as she inhales (the result of a childhood trauma involving Grandma), checks in periodically on Grandma and Bella but tries to avoid Grandma. Uncle Louie is a bagman for the mob, and he is on the run. Their father, who maintains a dramatic presence through his letters, cannot come home until he has earned enough to pay off the loan sharks to whom he is indebted for the money for his wife's cancer treatments.

Moments of great drama, wit, and poignancy play out within the apartment, with all the action revolving around Grandma.
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Format: Paperback
First and foremost, Neil Simon is a brilliant playright, and Lost in Yonkers is another feather in his cap. Set in Yonkers, New York in 1942 during the second world war, two children-Jay and Artie-must stay for one year (while a debt is being cleared by their father) with their cold-hearted, inflexible, emasculating and miserly Grandmother Kurnitz, a hardened survivor and also a woman whose own inner emotional "icing up" (because of her own uncommunicated tragedy) turned her own kids into a petty thug (Louie), a childlike simpleton (Bella), a castrated doormat (Eddie) and a stuttering fool whom many privately mock (Aunt Gert). And under the intense conditions that this one woman evokes, Jay and Artie must struggle to live or rather survive, for a house without love or any caliber of human warmth whatsoever can quickly change these two boys from innocence and humor to the very spitting image of their deeply flawed aunts and uncle, and they themselves realize this; they must be steely and unfeeling, as their grandmother would love to have happen, for anything opposite that would be a sign of weakness and failure. And that is what makes Lost in Yonkers sad, disturbing and frightening, because those very elements are the ingredients for a very dysfunctional adulthood, and that is sometimes the worst weapon of all--the lacking of human love and warmth. But with the strict, life-sucking obedience that the kids must adhere to in order for there to be some semblance of peace and cohesion, one would think that there would be no possible glimmer of hope at all. Yet, the hope comes in the form of Jay and Artie's childlike aunt, Bella, whose simplicity will simply not allow her to be an unfeeling android who goes through the motions of life.Read more ›
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