Thursday, May 03, 2012

"The Lyons"

There is often a moment in a play when a character delivers a line that perfectly encapsulates the mood or the message of the work.  In "The Lyons," playwright Nicky Silver's first foray onto Broadway, the line goes something like, "You're all horrible people and I hope never to see any of you again!"

This line is spoken by Curtis Lyons, the youngest child of Rita and Ben Lyons.  Ben doesn't much care for his son.  Or his daughter, Lisa.  They're both huge disappointments, and now that dad is dying (the first act takes place in a hospital room), he feels liberated to say exactly what he thinks.  For instance, he thinks his son is "a creep."  His wife, Rita, is "a bitch."  To be honest with you, I'm inclined to agree.  Apart from the nurse (played with a gentle strength by Brenda Pressley), no one is likeable.  They're all family, but they certainly don't seem to love each other -- or themselves, for that matter.

They do have one thing going for them -- they're fictional.  They're often funny, but they're also often pitiful and cruel and self-absorbed and standoffish and, yes, creepy.  But they're on the other side of the proscenium where they belong.  And where we can enjoy how marvelously they are played by a terrific cast led by Linda Lavin, who is on pretty much everyone's short list to win the Tony for this role.

The acidic nature of their characters seem to have eaten through any familial connections that might once have existed.  The "icy, glacial blue" Rita imagines for the living room she wants to redecorate as soon as her husband hurries up and dies already loses its luster from the moment the curtain rises and ends up -- in Rita's words -- the "washed-out shade of dashed hopes."  This family doesn't talk with each other, or even to each other, if they ever did.  They only ever seem to talk at and through each other.  But that's the way they like it.  As Rita says, "no one feels comfortable with they're intimate."

No comments: