Dysfunctional Family Makes for Dark Comedy in The Lyons
Paula Faber, a veteran member of the theater’s acting company, gives a tour de force performance as Rita.-Motif
The lives of a dysfunctional family take center stage in the black comedy The Lyons, which opened in previews January 10 and is running through February 9 at Warren’s 2nd Story Theatre.
The Lyons was written by Nicky Silver and debuted on Broadway at the Cort Theatre in April 2012. This is a show that deals with life, death and everything in between.
Paula Faber, a veteran member of the theater’s acting company, gives a tour de force performance as Rita, the overbearing wife of Ben Lyons (Vince Petronio), who is dying from cancer. Rita, stuck in a 40-year loveless marriage, now thinks of the future without Ben and plans to re-decorate their home. Ben lays in his hospital bed and speaks in a flurry of profanities. He is constantly annoyed by Rita and despises her.
Their grown children Curtis (Kevin Broccoli) and Lisa (Lara Hakeem) also come to his hospital room to pay a visit.
Lisa has left an abusive marriage and is a recovering alcoholic. Curtis, who is gay, has had little to do with his father, who is homophobic.
Throughout the play, all the resentments between the Lyons bubble up to the surface.
Rita is a fundamentally selfish woman who will not spare anyone’s feelings. However, she is not a one dimensional caricature either. Late in Act One, while her husband sleeps under dimmed lights, Rita realizes how empty her life will be once Ben is gone. The man she has spent so many years with has occupied a major part of her time and energy. Faber masterfully manages to gain the audience’s sympathy in a short monologue.
Broccoli dominates most of Act Two, when Curtis has a fateful encounter with a wily real estate agent (Jeff Church) who is not who he appears to be.
Broccoli gives a note perfect performance as Curtis, a troubled man who writes short stories for a living and has a non-existent love life.
Petronio has a lot of funny moments as he quarrels with Rita about her plan to redecorate their living room after he is gone. There is also a touching and bittersweet moment when he reveals that despite all the hostility he expresses toward Rita, deep down he really loves her.
The dialogue is witty and sometimes poetic. One exchange goes like this:
Ben: “Rita, I’m dying!”
Rita: “Just try to be positive.”
Lucia Gill Case plays Ben’s nurse, who has some tart repartee late in the play with Curtis.
Mark Peckham directed the production, which moves at a brisk pace. The downstage theater provides an intimate setting for a show like The Lyons.
The four lead actors convincingly portray a family at odds with each other. The Lyons all seek happiness in their own way, and by the end, you are pulling for them to find it.
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