The time is nearly 7 p.m. and the cast of Arthur Miller’s Lost in Yonkers is gathered around a table enjoying their pizza. With nearly a week left before the play opens, the cast is in good spirits and full of energy. Dave Gabaree, who plays the mobster Uncle Louie, shares his Smartfood with another cast member while the rest converse excitedly. Their interaction with one another is very much the way a family would be like, which is similar to the characters they play. “There’s no one in the show who’s not a member of family,” said Shawn Dayton, who plays the part of Jay. “So sitting and doing things like this is not something that’s uncommon for us. ‘Cause we are family-like.”
Members of the cast and crew relaxed while they joked and shared inside information. The male performers are getting their hair either dyed or cut slightly to better fit their roles. The costumes were mostly donated and a few of the suits were fixed up to look as though they came from the 40s. Also, the cast consists of juniors and seniors with a few freshmen behind the scenes. This is due to the fact that auditions and casting for the play took place the previous semester.
Rehearsals for the play began the very first day of classes, and with an entire summer to prepare, the cast says that the “majority” of their lines were memorized. On this Wednesday evening, the cast is right on schedule, with a few exceptions.
The couch, which is one of the centerpieces for the set, was only given to the cast recently. A few other props are still being located and the set is in the process of being perfected. The cast is well rehearsed but they will be fine-tuning their lines in the next week in preparation for the show’s opening.
Susan Baker, the show’s director, gave notes from the previous rehearsal, during which Tirzha Osmun Palmer, who plays Grandma Krunitz, quietly knitted with bright blue yarn. The other actors sat in the theater seats as well, listening to the suggestions of their director.
“Timing is everything,” said Julian DeFelice, who plays Arthur.
Much of the play requires a good sense of timing not just for delivering the lines, but also for movement and expressions. Theater is all about give and take among the actors and the cast of Yonkers has that down packed. To warm up, the cast plays a quick game of “No holds barred red light, green light,” during which Michelle Page, who plays Gertrude, removed Dayton’s shoe.
The play opens with Jay and Arthur sitting a few feet apart from one another. Their father is in the other room with their grandmother. Their Aunt Bella, who is quite eccentric and played by Courteny LaFlamme, makes a quick appearance and a lasting impression. After weaving on and offstage, Eddie, played by Ken Holmes, returns to give the boys news. He plans to leave them with their grandmother while he is off working to repay a debt. This is where the play begins to unfold.
After much buildup by the two boys, Grandma Krunitz invades the doorway and oozes tension which blankets the rest of the cast. A German woman, her language is coarse and forceful. How will these two young boys survive with this woman while their father is away?
Lost in Yonkers will be performed September 28th and 29th at 8 p.m. and again Sunday at 2 p.m.