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Adobe Theater celebrates playwright Neil Simon’s birthday

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Adobe Theater will celebrate iconic American playwright and screenwriter Neil Simon’s July 4 birthday with its production of his Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Lost in Yonkers.”

Director Heather Lovick-Tolley, who has recently performed at the Adobe and other local theaters, is pleased to find herself with this play for her first turn in the director’s chair in Albuquerque.

Lovick-Tolley, a University of New Mexico drama graduate, stage manager and teacher, has acted in a couple of Simon plays and read several more, but had never read the “Lost in Yonkers” script until she was trying to choose one of his plays to direct.

“I really enjoyed it. By the time I finished, I knew this was the one,” she says. “I’m fond of this group of plays.”

If you go
WHAT: “Lost in Yonkers”WHEN: Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. June 28-July 21

WHERE: Adobe Theater, 9813 Fourth NW

HOW MUCH: Adults $15, seniors and students $13. For reservations call 898-9222 during the week or visit www.adobetheater.org

She refers to the collection of Simon plays that include “Biloxi Blues,” “Brighton Beach” and “Broadway Bound” that are the most autobiographical of the more than 30 plays he’s written.

“He writes about real people in a humorous manner,” she says. “I really like how he writes these characters.”

“Lost In Yonkers” is a look at the quirky and dysfunctional Kurnitz family. For 10 months Jay, played by Nik Hoover, and his younger brother Arty, Vicente F. Vargas, are cast into the home of their harsh Grandma Kurnitz, played by Ninette S. Mordaunt. No one can be happy around her for long and their father, Eddie, played by Vernon Poitras, considered himself fortunate to escape her years before. His siblings: Uncle Louie, played by Ned Record, childlike Aunt Bella, played by Kamila Kasparian, and Aunt Gert, played by Teresa A. Longo, buffer the boys from their grandmother.

Lovick-Tolley says it’s more than a coming-of-age play about Jay. “When I read it I saw it more as a coming-of-age for the adults. Because these boys are now a part of their daily lives they are forced to engage in an honest evaluation of why they are who they are and they grow from it.”

She says she is pleased with all the actors, but especially Hoover and Vargas, who at 15 and 13, are the same ages as the characters they play.

“They’ve really expanded their acting with these roles,” she says.

She says Kasparian brings just the right blend of humor and vulnerability to the role of Bella: “Bella is particularly poignant. She lives in her own world. She has a fun way of thinking and looking at life. Today we might describe her as a special-needs person, but mostly she wants to be loved.”

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