We were in the audience on Thursday evening, May 17, for the opening of the Harold Green Jewish Theatre Company’s impressive production of Neil Simon’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Lost in Yonkers.
The play focuses on two brothers who are left in the care of their severe and intimidating grandmother in Yonkers, New York, in 1942 after their mother has died and their father, a travelling salesman, takes to the road. Adding plenty of colour are sweet but childishly excitable Aunt Bella, who lives with the grandmother, and Uncle Louie, a tough-talking gangster who comes to visit.
As written by Simons, the piece is a funny, nostalgia-tinged gem, and the HGJTC cast – consisting of Marion Ross (Grandmother), Linda Kash (Bella), Ari Cohen (Louie), David Eisner (father), Sheila McCarthy (Gert) and Jesse Shimko and Alessandro Costantini (the brothers) – brought out the sparkle in its many facets. Kudos to director Jim Warren for ensuring that even the set and the music were of an equal high quality.
Tragically, the day after the opening, Kash’s husband, Paul O’Sullivan, was killed in a highway accident. Our deepest condolences to her and her family. But the show goes on. Forced to withdraw from the play, Kash was replaced by Finnerty Steeves, who played Bella off-Broadway in the recently acclaimed revival.
According to the New York Post, Lost in Yonkers is “the best play Simon ever wrote,” and Simon, by most accounts, stands as one of the best Jewish playwrights of the latter half of the last century. Any talk that the play is unsuitable for a Jewish theatre company, as a Toronto Star critic suggested, is nonsense.
At the Jane Mallett Theatre, St. Lawrence Centre, 27 Front St. E., until June 10. $24.50 to $79.50. 416-366-7723, www.stlc.com
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Friends of Yiddish: “Friling, Springtime,” the Friends of Yiddish closing concert, offers a musical afternoon with Stella Walker, David Rosen and Waylen Miki, as well as door prizes and refreshments. Beth Tikvah Synagogue, 3080 Bayview Ave. Members $5, guests $15. Sunday, June 10, 2 p.m. RSVP by June 6 to Sandy, 416-736-8073, firstname.lastname@example.org
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Film about the Rosenbergs: Toronto Jewish Film Society pays tribute to Sidney Lumet with the screening of Daniel, a feature drama starring Timothy Hutton, Mandy Patinkin and Amanda Plummer. Directed by Lumet and scripted by E.L. Doctorow from his novel The Book of Daniel, the story is based on the lives of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Jewish spies executed for treason against the United States.
With speaker Kevin Courrier. $15, $10; no advance ticket sales. Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre, Sunday, June 3 at 4 and 7:30 p.m. 416-924-6211, ext. 606.
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Casting Call: Merle Garbe, artistic producer of Encore Entertainment, has announced the non-paying, non-Equity theatre company is auditioning for all major roles for a production of Fiddler on the Roof to run in the fall. Auditions require singing and take place June 11, 13 and 17. email@example.com, www.encoreshows.com
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Names in the News: Quiptake Production’s Bleed, created and directed by Adam Lazarus, is being offered in Toronto’s 7th annual Festival of Clowns, May 31 to June 3. Bleed uses “clown” to tell a horror story that is “a visceral, grotesque and fun experience.” (The piece will likely not help to diminish the rate of “coulrophobia,” the irrational fear of clowns, among the general public.) An instructor at the National Theatre School of Canada and the University of Toronto, actor-director Lazarus co-founded the festival in 2006 and bills himself as the “bouffon king of Toronto.” www.torontofestivalofclowns.com
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Arts in Brief
• Film critic Adam Nayman discusses Stanley Kubrick’s films A Clockwork Orange and Barry Lyndon in his continuing series of lectures with film clips. $12 drop-in, students $6. Miles Nadal JCC, Monday, June 4, 7 to 9 p.m.
• Opera educator Iain Scott presents Nabucco, Verdi’s Jewish opera. $5. Active Seniors, Miles Nadal JCC, Thursday, June 7, 1:30 p.m. 416-924-6211, ext. 155.
• Deadline for submissions to the Canadian Jewish Playwriting Competition is July 3, 2012. For details, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
• The Summer Institute for Creative Adults (SICA) offers “adult vocal, choir camp, jazz, cabaret, opera choruses, technique and more.” For advanced beginners and above. $350. Miles Nadal JCC, July 16 to 20, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. email@example.com, 416-924-6211, ext. 606.
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At the Galleries: Elementary- and secondary-school winners and honourable mentions of the Jewish Music Week Student Art Contest display their artistic interpretations of what music means to them. Miles Nadal JCC Art Gallery, June 1 to 10.