Butterfield Stage’s newest production took the stage Friday night. “Lost in Yonkers,” the story of Jay and Arty Kurnitz’s stay with Grandma after their father must work as a traveling salesman following the boy’s mother’s death, will be showing this weekend and next weekend at the Gainesville theater.
The play shows Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and will continue to show at 7:30 p.m. May 18 and May 19 and at 2:30 p.m. May 20.
“The play is set in 1942 in Yonkers, New York,” Director Debra Campbell said. “The Grandma Kurnitz lives in an apartment above a candy store. She is old, German and Jewish. She has hardened herself to the world and to her children.”
This Neil Simon production has seven cast members and the Butterfield production’s youngest cast members are 16 playing a 13 and a half year old and a 16 year old.
“The boys are central to the show,” Campbell said. “Before we even held the auditions, I saw some of the actors and knew that they would be perfect for this show. I am so glad that they auditioned because they have all been doing a great job.”
Eddie Kurnitz, the boy’s father will be played by Thomas Morgan. Grandma will be played by Debs Clark and the boys, Jay and Arty will be played by Nicholas Pyron and Sebastian Murden. Aunt Bella is played by Karmon Pyron. Gangster henchman Louie is played by Terry Colquitt and Grandma’s sister Gertrude will be played by Tara Lehner.
“The first two weeks of rehearsal, we just did read throughs,” Campbell said. “I just wanted the actors to get to know each other and their character’s relationships. When we did hit the stage, the actors were dynamic. It was just amazing.”
Campbell said that during the first read through, all of the actors laughed, then all of them cried.
“It gets really intense,” she said. “Some scenes are emotional. There is one with Bella and Grandma where you see Grandma turn from her hardness. She softens up for her daughter. It is beautiful.”
“Lost in Yonkers” is a story about life, conflict, letting go, moving on, struggle, resolution, acceptance and coming of age.
“Neil Simon is really great about rounding out the characters,” Campbell said. “The character development is absolutely great and I know that the audience will agree.”
In the past, Campbell worked on productions as a stage crew member, actress, scriptwriter and director in multiple churches, college and community theaters.
“I have been in theater since I was 12,” Campbell said. “I grew up in Fort Worth and before when I was living in Houston, my husband would always tell me about this theater. When we moved up here, I got brave and introduced myself to the directors here.”
This is the first time Campbell will direct a show a Butterfield. Having moved into the area just one year ago, she first appeared in the Butterfield show “Wedding Belles” as Bobrita Tolliver.
“I have always liked the architecture of old buildings and Butterfield Stage is located in the historical district in Gainesville,” she said. “I love this place because it is not modern. It is quaint. It is a quaint theater.”
Show dates are set for May 11-12 and May 18-20. Tickets can be purchased at www.buttefieldstage.org or 940-665-1284. All sales are final. For more information about the show and other Butterfield events, visit the Butterfield website and Facebook page “Butterfield Stage Players.”