Photo by Don Kellogg

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Lyons

A new play by Nicky Silver, The Lyons, strikes a bitter and bitingly funny tone that all too many dysfunctional families will likely recognize.  Never known for his innocuous dialogue or weak point of view, Mr. Silver puts death right in our faces this time as the patriarch of this family, Ben Lyons (Dick Latessa), is being consumed by cancer and near death in the hospital bed as his wife, Rita Lyons (Linda Lavin) and his children, Curtis and Lisa Lyons, (Michael Esper, Kate Jennings Grant) gather by his side.  From the very first moments, you realize this last visit is going to be anything but peaceful and quiet.

Ms. Lavin shines.  Her lines are peppered with bullets - most every one hitting a bulls-eye - each acknowledged with her trademark puckered lips, or a sharp glare.  The disappointment and anger of her entire married life boils to the forefront in these last few days.  Her children show up - each damaged in their own deep, sad, and personal ways over the years and bring no comfort to either father or mother - nor to each other.

Mr. Silver's play starts out in classic comedic form in Act I, but after a brief intermission Act II takes a few detours that take the audience by surprise - and especially Scene 2 in Act II, which seems to bring little relevance to the story and while cleverly acted by Mr Esper and Mr Wooddell (Brian), ended in an unnecessarily violent and disturbing confrontation.  Scene 3, which needed some link from Scene 2, returned us to the family drama more akin to Act I.  Add an unexpected detour and then it all wraps up.

Ms. Lavin's barbs, Mr. Latessa's rants, and their damaged children's pathos are all superbly and sharply executed.  If only Mr. Silver's story was as consistently impressive.  I think it's fair to say that if Ms. Lavin's name was not associated with this production, it would be far less enjoyable.  Nonetheless, it is - and therefore well worth the price of admission to see this stage veteran consistently fire her weapon and hit her targets with aplomb.