Bonkers for Lost in Yonkers

When Stanislavski wrote his seminal work “The Actor Prepares,” he never could have imagined David Abrams’ method for memorizing lines.

“I put on Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan records,” says Abrams, who co-stars in the Ross Valley Players’ upcoming production of “Lost in Yonkers.” “I walk in a circle in my room and practice my lines in 15-minute segments.”

If Abrams finds himself in a purple haze lately, it’s because opening night is near. The play opens July 16 in Ross. So far, says the 17-year-old San Rafael resident, rehearsals have gone well, but it’s easy to have fun doing Neil Simon’s 1991 Tony Award-winning comedy.

It’s especially fun for Abrams and his fellow teen cast member Kyle Lemle, 14, of Mill Valley. The two youngest members of the cast play Artie and Jay, Jewish brothers living with their grandmother in 1942 while their widower father is out of town working at a munitions plant.

Also in the dramatis personae, the boys’ wacky relatives: Aunt Bella, Uncle Louie and Aunt Gert (who has the odd habit of talking while inhaling).

It’s not exactly typecasting, but Abrams and Lemle both happen to be Jewish, which they concede has helped them perfect their roles.

“Judaism is not a huge theme in the play,” says Abrams, “but it’s definitely important to the story. The family came to America from Germany.”

For Lemle, the role is the latest in a string of professional acting gigs. He’s appeared in several Mountain Plays at Mount Tam’s Cushing Memorial Amphitheater, including “My Fair Lady” and “Oliver.” He also co-starred in the Marin Theatre Company’s production of “Lady in the Dark.”

Says Lemle, “I started doing plays at school in third grade and got hooked after that.”

For Abrams, “Lost in Yonkers” is his first professional gig after a career in the drama department at Terra Linda High School. He cut his acting teeth in a few juicy roles there, co-starring in plays like Tom Stoppard’s “The Real Inspector Hound” and Shakespeare’s “Henry V.”

“My parents took me to the theater a lot,” he recalls of his childhood. “I always liked to entertain people and make them feel good. Now it’s fun to do the process of acting, and become a completely different person.”

Raised in a Reform household, Abrams grew up attending Congregation Rodef Sholom in San Rafael. His mother is a former sisterhood president there.

Lemle, a 10th-grader at Marin Academy in San Rafael, grew up in a less-observant household but still enjoys attending seders and celebrating the High Holy Days with his family.

Mostly, though, he is deeply committed to his passion for acting. “I’m devoting all my time to theater,” he says. “When I’m not in a play, I get depressed.”

No one’s depressed at rehearsals these days. Says Abrams, “It’s a blast. As soon as we stop acting, we’re laughing. We all get along.”

Adds Lemle, “It’s going to be really great. The actors are all really committed.”

And besides the thrill of performing live theater, there’s one other aspect to the show that pleases Abrams. “I’m used to playing completely different kinds of characters,” he says. “I’ve never been a kid before in all those other productions. It’s great to be playing a character my age.”

“Lost in Yonkers” by Neil Simon plays 2 p.m. Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Thursdays and 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, July 16 to Aug. 22, at the Barn Theater, Marin Art & Garden Center, 30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Ross. Tickets: $12-$17. Information: (415) 456-9555.

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.