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Lola Smith to Star in Neil Simon’s Lost in Yonkers


By Fredric Dannen

Lola Smith, a revered figure in the San Miguel theater community, turned 93 on September 10.

Just 10 days later, she opened in a one-act play, Waiting for the Telegram, by Alan Bennett, a monologue that ran for nearly three quarters of an hour. Lola played Violet, a wheelchair-bound woman in a nursing home still haunted by the memory of an amorous soldier she spurned as he was going off to fight, and die, in World War I. Lola consistently left audience members in tears. She had to do it all from memory. And she never dropped a word.

I didn’t know Lola well until last year when I saw her act in a short play. I was determined to work with her in a full production. After a lifetime in the theater, performing in various parts of the world—including the fabled Bird-on-a-Cliff Theater Company in Woodstock, New York, in the 1940s—Lola still loved acting. Her age was no barrier, except in one respect. “There are not a lot of roles,” she told me, “for women in their nineties.”

I had one part in mind for her, however: the grandmother in Neil Simon’s Pulitzer-winning Lost in Yonkers. Grandma Kurnitz—we never learn her first name—is an overpowering role. A German-Jewish immigrant who has lost neither her accent nor her rigid philosophy (“You don’t survive in this world without being like steel”), Grandma Kurnitz has permanently scarred her four living adult children. Her son Eddie has to leave his two terrified young boys in Grandma’s care for the better part of a year while he works to pay off a debt.

In order to produce Lost in Yonkers in San Miguel, I had to find two capable boy actors, as well as adults who could handle the difficult roles of Eddie and his sister Bella. Fate smiled on the project. Jocelynn Sunrise and Neil Sklar, accomplished actors who moved to San Miguel just this year, were ideal for Bella and Eddie. Marcela Brondo, who recently directed The Madres, spotted two remarkable boy actors, Joey Pawelko and Anwar Saadi, at a talent show for the Victoria Robbins School.

Lost in Yonkers will have ten performances at the San Miguel Playhouse, October 17–October 28, Wednesdays and Sundays at 3pm, Thursdays through Saturdays at 7pm. The play is in English with Spanish supertitles. Tickets are 400 pesos (center section) and 300 pesos (side sections), available at Boleto City in the Mercado Sano, second floor, Ancha de San Antonio 123, Monday–Saturday, 11am–5pm. They are also available online at or



Lost in Yonkers by Neil Simon

Featuring Lola Smith, Jocelynn Sunrise, Neil Sklar, Anwar H. Saadi, Joey Pawelko, Fil Formicola, and Kate Rowland

October 17–28

Wed–Sun, 3pm matinees

Thu–Sat, 7pm shows

400 pesos (center section)/300 pesos (side sections)

Tickets: Boleto City, Mercado Sano, Mon–Sat, 11am–5pm

Online tickets: or


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