Director has special connection to ‘Yonkers’


Jen Otterman has an affinity for “Lost in Yonkers.”

“Neil Simon has notoriety for his comedies, but he has several shows that are more dramedies, and this is one of them,” Otterman said. “‘Lost in Yonkers’ has many delightful moments that are quite humorous. It also offers some deeply poignant and insightful scenes that are heart-rending. I think that is why I love it.”


The Noblesville resident is directing the Main Street Productions play Feb. 8-18 at Basile Westfield Playhouse.

“I have always loved plays and musicals that offer a realistic view of life, never all glory and fun and never all sadness and despair,” she said. “(It’s) life, with all its ups and downs, its triumphs and defeats. I can laugh with the best of them at a comedy or a farce, but I most like the works that truly reflect the roller coaster of life as we live it. The themes in this show — courage, endurance, strength, family alienation and eventual reconciliation — are all challenges that we all must face, grapple with and resolve. ‘Yonkers’ is a magnifying glass that allows us to analyze our own lives through its lenses.

“It reveals how we are shaped by those who love us, but even more by those who refuse to love us, or cannot know how to love us.”  

Otterman has been involved with “Lost in Yonkers” twice before. She taught speech theater and writing at Hamilton Southeastern High School for nearly 30 years, retiring in 2015. Otterman, who was part of the team that directed the school’s annual plays, produced “Yonkers” in 2007 for the thespian show.  

“Coincidentally, Becca (Bartley), who is currently playing Bella in this show, also played Bella at HSE (in 2007),” Otterman said. “She is reprising the role a little older and wiser, but with as much talent and energy as she did in her high school years. Then, 11 years later, in 2018, I played the role of Grandma at the Red Barn Summer Theatre in Frankfort. So, this is my third dance with this show. To say I know it intimately might be accurate.”

Otterman said a challenge is mastering the two dialects in the play, both an East Coast Bronx-like one for the family and a German accent for Grandma.  

“Since we cannot hire a dialect coach, we must do our best with instructional CDs, videos and movies that offer an example,” she said. “That requires extra work from the actors, all of whom are holding down day jobs or attending school.”