“The Lyons” at 2nd Story Theatre
The wining cast boldly blazes into battle from the first without faltering, spewing some very funny anger at each other as they reveal the truth of who they really are beyond the surface.by Richard Pacheco
“The Lyons” at 2nd Story Theatre by Nicky Silver bristles with quirky and sassy dialogue, making for many laughs along the way and some touching moments as well. They are ill-tempered and nasty to each other, seem like the cannot cling without stabbing each other verbally. It is loaded with one liners as they kick the ego out of each other.
Silver’s play, “The Lyons”, opened on Broadway in April 2012, after an Off-Broadway run at the Vineyard Theater in 2011. This is his first play to be produced on Broadway where the play stared Linda Lavin and Dick Latessa. His new play, “Too Much Sun” is expected to premiere Off-Broadway at the Vineyard Theatre in May 2014, with direction by Mark Brokaw and starring Linda Lavin.
Ben Lyons is in a hospital where he is dying from cancer. His family gathers around him. His wife Rita kept the illness secret from the children. The family surrounds him including his grown children, Curtis Lyons and Lisa Lyons. He is also attended by a pleasant nurse who takes care of his needs. Ben is no longer constrained by manners or family niceties, and says whatever he wishes, including tons of expletives. Rita, trapped in a 40-year loveless marriage, now thinks of the future without Ben and plans to re-decorate the living room. Lisa is an alcoholic, who has left an abusive marriage; but is still attracted to her husband. Curtis, a homosexual, has had little to do with his father, who is homophobic and despises his lifestyle and isn’t afraid to say it. In a getaway from the hospital, Curtis looks at an apartment with the help of an actor moonlighting as a real estate agent. The Lyons were vastly ill suited for each other and the main question remains of what will happen to the children as well as Rita when he dies.
Vince Petronio is Ben, who recently found out he had cancer and was dying—soon. It has made him blunt and ill tempered and he has little patience left for his wife of 40 years or his two grown children of whom he vastly disapproves for various reasons. He unloads all on his family with particular nastiness on his son Curtis. Petronio is taut and hilarious in the role as he spews swears out like a machine gun aimed in all directions, spraying the room with pent up frustration and rage.
Paula Faber is Rita, a woman frustrated by her 40 year marriage whose greatest current joy is that she will be able to redo the living room and toss that ugly furniture once her husband dies. She even tries to enlist his aid in picking out a new look, but he balks at the idea with fierce determination and forbids her to do it. She is a suffering belittling Jewish mother whose loves comes in like porcupine quills, sharp and pointed. Faber is the epitome of the well dressed, sophisticated and ever nasty Rita, always poised to take another shot at her husband and her children with relish and abandon.
Lara Hakeem is Lisa, the divorced battered ex-wife still attracted to her former abusive husband and the alcoholic daughter. She doesn’t know what a healthy relationship looks like, something reinforced when she meets a man down the hall from her father in the hospital who is dying and is attracted to him. Hakeem is delightful in the role. She withers beneath her mother’s barrages of meanness and insults and she struggles to keep battling the omnipresent urge to drink and drink a lot.
Kevin Broccoli is Curtis, the gay son hated by his father for not living up to dad’s expectations. Curtis is awkward, brainy, full of fantasies with serious problems, not big surprise considering his family situation and in particular his father’s bile towards him. He is without doubt the product of Rita and Ben’s upbringing. Broccoli is terrific in the role, delivering a balance of awkwardness and intelligence along with a wounded tiny animal quality that is effective.
Lucia Gill Case rounds out the cast as the nurse so is so attentive to Ben and more no nonsense when Curtis ends up on the hospital in the same ward later on. Case is solid and effective in her role.
Director Mark Pelham keeps the pace brisk and potent, oozing nastiness at every turn. It is also vastly entertaining while being down and dirty. He mines the sheer malice here for great comic effect, making us laugh in spite of ourselves.
Set designer Karl Pellitier uses a less is more concept with the sparsely decorated hospital room and even the apartment later has very little but more than enough to make it palatable and work.
The play is a raucous family free for all, with all the family members going at each with rare zest and venom a take no prisoners approach that is as nasty as it is funny. The play never wanes in its energy or its spite. The wining cast boldly blazes into battle from the first without faltering, spewing some very funny anger at each other as they reveal the truth of who they really are beyond the surface.