The production looks just right. They dress sort of suburban hip.
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Despite his visceral dissection of the family, Silver is hopeful. We seem to know it gets better. It's all bright wit and dark humor. You should consider the production at the Round House Theatre in Bethesda the company's dystopian holiday treat for Every member of the show's seriously dysfunctional Lyons family wishes for a better life and lineage. You know, your standard-issue affair.
There are people who would walk over hot coals to see Linda Lavin tear into a meaty role.
But fate is a bitch, and so is Rita Lyons. Surely your mother isn't quite as much of a monster as Rita, played with exacting precision by Naomi Jacobson. For decades Lyons has wished the husband she never loved would finally croak -- even once entertaining the idea of murdering him by firepower. Now that Ben Lyons John Lescault is on his deathbed, in a body riddled with cancer and a mouth full of potty, all she has to do is wait for death to take him away and leave her in peace.
In the meantime she hopes to rekindle ties with her gay son and alcoholic daughter. In theory it shouldn't be hard, because they're all incredibly lonely people. But everything's a struggle in the Lyons family. Silver, a gay playwright whose work is familiar to Woolly Mammoth patrons, has said that he doesn't set out to make likeable characters, only those who show a sense that "they are fighting for their survival. These Lyons are all lions to one degree or another.
Jacobson is the queen of the jungle, portraying Rita as an utterly indomitable force, one who doesn't back down even when she knows she's said or done something wrong. Toward the end of Act 1, Rita reveals a vulnerable side in a soliloquy addressed to her sleeping husband about just how terrified she is of being alone. While that proves to be merely a momentary lapse of fortitude, it does help give us a fuller picture of the woman. It also allows Jacobson to show off her incredible range as an actor. She never stumbles in the demanding role. But then Jacobson is in stellar company here.
Lescault plays Ben as a thoroughly defeated man who nonetheless rages as if there were still hope, still love to be found with his wife. Marcus Kyd and Kimberly Gilbert are the Lyons' offspring, both horribly scarred by a lack of love and respect shown between, and from, their parents -- and yet both still showing signs that they are capable of giving love and respect.
You'll be both charmed and distraught by Kyd's performance as an imaginative, intelligent Curtis, who keeps getting tripped up by a real life that was stunted far too early -- age 7, to be exact -- upon rejection by his homophobic father. And, as expected, if you've ever had the pleasure of seeing her onstage before, you won't be able to take your eyes off Gilbert.
This incredibly expressive local actor puts her whole body into a role, with every physical movement and gesture adding to her portrayal. Gilbert as Lisa is well dressed in stylish costumes by Rosemary Pardee , but a barely contained bundle of nerves and energy. She's a woman, full of greater potential, who can't seem to do the right thing, but also one who doesn't let that stop her from putting herself out there -- so unlike her brother.
The Lyons ends with a hint of resolution, with widowed mother Rita preparing for a getaway to the Caribbean and each Lyons kid trying to bond with an unlikely stranger. Even excepting for a few subplot twists better left as a surprise, these are signs that the future for this family might be better than its past. It wouldn't take much. If that maxim holds true, then the Lyons must be the most loving—and hoarse—family in existence.
Death provides permission for the Lyons to go at it like possums in a burlap bag, although you get the feeling this clan has never exactly been reticent. Patriarch Ben John Lescault is in the hospital dying of cancer and the disease has made him a potty mouth—even the most banal of questions is greeted with a fusillade of profanity.
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Wife Rita Naomi Jacobson kvetches about his language, but pretty much takes the whole situation in stride. Enter the adult children Lisa Kimberly Gilbert , a recovering alcoholic and divorcee with two children, and Curtis Marcus Kyd , a gay writer who appears to be in a stable long-standing relationship. The first act is a brutal free-for-all, as everyone tries to make it all about them rather than the dying man lying in the center of the room. A seen-it-all Nurse Gabriela Fernandez-Coffey drops in and out of the action.
With most of the secrets out in the open, there is no cleansing sense of relief or closure. These secrets were part of their identity and they wore them proudly. It is almost as if they—and the audience—are choking on truth.
Nowhere is this more apparent than with Rita, played with brazen bravado by Miss Jacobsen. For a minute, she drops the overbearing Jewish mother act—funny as it is—and talks to Ben simply about what basket cases their adult children are. Miss Gilbert is both fragile and incandescent as Lisa—someone who tries so hard but is such a mess— who admits that her family drives her to drink and how she finds it exhausting to remain cheerful.
Next, Curtis has an unsettling encounter with a real estate agent Brian Brandon McCoy , who thinks he is merely showing Curtis an apartment. Kyd and Mr.
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McCoy adeptly handle the shifts in mood and emotions, making the situation seem highly charged and desperately sad. By Nicky Silver. He writes exaggeratedly vicious people, has them fight, and expects it to be heart-warming and funny. In a short interview inserted in the program, Silver says he wrote the play in a month, and wanted to demonstrate there are alternate routes to happiness than through the family.
I found nothing heart-warming or hopeful in it, and very little funny. She points out that for someone with terminal cancer, he has quite the set of lungs on him. In Act II, Ben is finally dead, but his survivors are as screwed up and nasty as ever.
Family resentments roar to the surface in 'The Lyons' - Los Angeles Times
We first see him in the process of renting an apartment from a realtor, Brian Drew Wieland , but get a clear feeling Curtis is as unfocused and isolated as before. Harris, especially, as the most contemplative character, gets to wallow in his misery and grow the most. If we can laugh at them, perhaps we can learn to laugh at ourselves. So it's a treat to see the Road Theatre Company presenting the Los Angeles premiere of his comedy, "The Lyons," which was on Broadway with Linda Lavin in an uproarious performance.
The story has a structural problem, and the play is certainly not everyone's taste, but the Road populates it with crackling actors and stages it with panache. Ever fond of dysfunctional families, Silver dreams up a doozy here. The story begins in a Manhattan hospital room where Rita Lyon Judith Scarpone — impeccably coiffed and wearing a smart Chanel knockoff — talks a mile a minute while husband Ben James Handy , bed-tethered with end-stage cancer, fumes through these last hours of marital agony.
Rita is so eager to move on with her life that she doesn't bother to mask her giddiness. Ben, facing a liberation of his own, snarls four-letter words as though purging a lifetime's bitter disappointments. The products of their unhappiness — their adult children — arrive in due course: single-mom Lisa Verity Branco , struggling mightily to control her jangled nerves and raw need, and gay son Curtis Chad Coe , too tranquil and refined to be quite real.
Beneath the glib brutality, the characters harbor genuine affection, and Silver uses his sharp humor to pierce through to deeper truths, such as the double-edged qualities of want selfish yet restorative and isolation protective yet lonely. Similarly, Sarah B Brown's set belies its appearance by opening like a pop-up card to reveal the gleaming hospital room. Telling details abound as director Scott Alan Smith organically shapes the story's surges and eddies. Mary Jane Miller's costumes speak volumes. Frustratingly, though, a terrifically cohesive Act 1 is followed by an Act 2 that, as it begins, feels like a different play.