The director and assistant director of Morris Theatre Guild’s newest production — “Lost in Yonkers” — are likely to be having moments of déjà vu preparing for the Friday, May 3, opening night.
Jim Welch, of Morris, and Tim Atchison, of Plainfield, have worked together before.
As members of Morris Theatre Guild.
And as director and assistant director.
And even in that combination on “Lost in Yonkers.”
The pair worked on the same play in the same positions in the same theatre guild 18 years ago. It all worked out so well and was such a hit, they’re doing it again.
The differences are the cast and the building itself, but those differences are proving to be making this particular production its own.
“It’s amazing how the show can change around you with different people,” Welch said.
“Different actors bring out different nuances and new flavors to the characters,” Atchison said. “It’s very interesting to see what people do with their parts to make them their own.”
“Lost in Yonkers” is a comedy drama set in Yonkers, New York, in 1942. It’s written by playwright Pulitzer Prize-winner Neil Simon, whose other works include “The Odd Couple,” “Barefoot in the Park,” “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” and “Biloxi Blues.”
The play is the coming-of-age story of two brothers who find themselves in the very different world of Yonkers after their father leaves them at their grandmother’s house so he can pursue his job as a salesman. The boys must deal with more than just a new environment as they learn to adjust to their stern grandmother, an aunt with a mental illness and a surprise romance, and a small-time hoodlum uncle.
Welch and Atchison met when Atchison was a lawyer in Morris and a fellow member of the MTG. They worked together on several projects.
When Atchison learned Welch was doing “Yonkers” again, he called Welch up and asked him if he had an AD yet. He didn’t, and the two began plans on their second production of the play.
“Working with Tim is an utter delight,” Welch said. “He not only knows theatre, but he went to school in lighting. He’s doing our lighting, too. He has some great ideas for that.”
“We’ve always been very good friends,” Atchison said of his relationship with Welch. “We’re pretty good at working with each other and understanding each other.”
Atchison said the two end up having inside jokes from all the theatre experiences they’ve shared. It’s something the rest of the cast may be shaking their heads at, he said.
Both of them said the cast of the play is very talented. The actors who play the two brothers, Josh Wren and Dylan Obrochta, are both in high school, but take on big responsibilities in these leading roles and are really stepping up to the plate, Welch said.
“They are getting their lines down pretty well,” Atchison said. “When they let loose and really become the characters, there are a lot of brilliant moments. They are both in there for the lion’s part of the play. . . I like what they’re finding in their characters.”
Atchison said he thinks those who attend the play will have moments of pure laughter and other moments that will tug at their hearts.
“If there isn’t laughter and a tear in their eye,” Welch said, “then we didn’t do our jobs. . . I love this show because it’s real. We’re all imperfect human beings. We can all relate with that. Everybody’s like that.
This show celebrates dysfunctional families and the way they survive it.
“Neil Simon brings it right to your face. They’re going to get a lot of laughs.”
“Lost in Yonkers” will play two weekends, May 3-5 and 10-12. Tickets may be purchased or reserved by calling (815) 942-1966, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting www.morristheatreguild.com.