First the family had a health care crisis. Unsavory lenders made things worse. Then a ne'er-do-well relative came to town.
Sound like the makings of a comedy?
Maybe not, but playwright Neil Simon has always been able to make misery sound funny. His Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway hit Lost in Yonkers, which is playing through Nov. 2 at the Richey Suncoast Theatre, might be just the thing for times like these with few natural laugh lines.
"Simon writes comedy. This is more dramedy," said director Saul Leibner. "He weaves comedy in to relieve the tension of the drama."
In the play, two boys are left in the care of their strong-willed grandmother while their father works as a traveling salesman, desperate to repay money he borrowed from loan sharks.
Aunt Bella, a grown woman with the mind of a child, lives with crotchety old Grandma Kurnitz. She wants nothing more than to get married and have a family. Sister Gert has a breathing problem that makes it difficult to talk.
Uncle Louie shows up with a bag of the mob's money. He brushes off his nephew's desire to help with what he calls a "one-man operation."
Grandma Kurnitz is played by Lorus Hawbecker (Julia McKinlock in last year's West Coast Players production of Sabrina Fair). "That role was coveted by more than any other part in the play," said Leibner.
Adam Brawer (Winthrop in The Music Man, Patrick in Mame) and Micah Laird (muleteer in Man of La Mancha) play the nephews, and Uncle Louie is played by Jim Poe, who recently directed Sweet Charity.
Susan Nichols, who won a Tommy Award for Best Actress for M'Lynn Eatenton in Steel Magnolias, plays the part of Bella. Annette Delligatti, who plays Aunt Gert, learned how to say her lines while inhaling and wheezing.
"They do have mikes in case it's hard to understand," said Delligatti. "After one or two sentences, they'll get what I'm saying."