Review: Comedy with a serious side

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Uncle Louie bullies 13-year-old Arty.
THOUGH billed as a comedy, this play by Neil Simon has all the earmarks of a more serious drama. Under the strong hand of Punch McGregor, the cast members take control of the plum roles – two sons, two daughters and two grandsons of a dominating German Jewish immigrant grandma, teetering on the brink of tragedy while making us laugh.

Set in and around a candy store in Yonkers, New York, the plays sees the 13 and 15-year-old boys Arty (Pippin Carroll) and Jay (Lachlan Ruffy) more trapped that lost in Yonkers when their father (Colin Milner) is forced to go interstate to earn money and leave them with grandma. These three convince us with their warmth.

The eccentric cameo roles of gangster Uncle Louie and nervous Aunt Gertie are beautifully played by Paul Jackson and Elaine Noon, who could well have stolen the limelight were it not for stunning performances by Bridgette Black as the childlike Aunt Bella and Helen Vaughan-Roberts as the formidable Krandma Kurnitz.

The scene where mother and daughter face uncomfortable truths is truly moving. Handled without mawkishness, we catch a glimpse beneath the iron surface of grandma, yet Vaughan-Roberts remains steely and unsentimental.

The production is notable for its restraint and taste, acted out on a beautiful set by Andrew Kay and backed by a period soundscape devised by Jonathan Pearson. Strongly recommended.

 

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Helen Musa
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