Lost in Yonkers

by Neil Simon

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Act 1 Summary

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Act 1, Scene 1
Lost in Yonkers begins in the apartment above ‘‘Kurnitz's Kandy Store,’’ where Grandma and Bella Kurnitz live. It is a hot day in August, and Jay and Arty Kurnitz sit waiting for their father in one of the rooms of the apartment. They soon find out that this is no standard visit and that their father, Eddie, is in debt to a loan shark because he borrowed money to help pay for their dead mother's hospital bills. Because of this, Eddie is trying to leave Jay and Arty with their grandma while Eddie travels south to work in metal scrapyards that are servicing the war effort. Grandma Kurnitz refuses to let the boys stay there until Bella, who is mentally impaired, threatens to leave Grandma Kurnitz and go stay at a home for the mentally ill if she does not let the boys stay.

Act 1, Scene 2
Jay reads a letter from Eddie, talking about his work experiences and letting them know that he has developed an irregular heartbeat from all of the traveling. Grandma Kurnitz scolds Bella for going to the movies and takes away the movie magazine that Bella has bought.

Act 1, Scene 3
Weeks later, the boys receive another letter from Eddie that says he had to take a week off and rest from overexertion. Jay notices a black car that has been hanging around the apartment looking for their Uncle Louie. Bella comes home, and after prodding from the two boys, tells Jay and Arty that she is going to get married to a learning-impaired movie usher and have lots of children with him. She says that the usher, Johnny, wants to open a restaurant but that he does not have enough money. She also lets the boys know that Grandma Kurnitz has ten or fifteen thousand dollars that she keeps hidden somewhere in the house and that she changes the hiding place every year. Jay explores the possibility of finding the money, borrowing it, and sending it to their father.

Act 1, Scene 4
A week later, the boys receive another letter from Eddie that says he is having a hard time learning the southern dialect. It is late at night and everybody is sleeping. Jay comes up from the store where he has been searching for Grandma Kurnitz's hidden money. The boys' Uncle Louie comes into their bedroom and remarks that he saw Jay looking for the money. Louie is wearing a holstered gun and lies at first, saying it is not his. However, they suspect that he is a henchman for the mob. He pays them five dollars and then says he will give them money each week if they agree to tell the men that are after him that they have not seen him.

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Act 2 Summary