BWW Reviews: THE LYONS Puts the Fun in Dysfunctional
THE LYONS, which opened at the Santa Fe Playhouse on March 27, is aptly described by director, Janet Davidson, as a 'dramedy.' The subject matter is definitely the stuff of drama, but playwright Nicky Silver delivers it with fast-paced wit and no-holds-barred humor. This is a black comedy that keeps you laughing, in spite of yourself, even as the dramas are unfolding on the stage.
The scene is New York. Ben Lyons, the family patriarch (excellently played by Paul Walsky) is in a Manhatten hospital, dying of cancer. His unloving, overbearing wife of 40 odd years, Rita, is clearly anxious for his demise, so that she can finally get on with re-decorating the living room. Ben's increasingly angry outbursts, as he attempts to get her to pay some attention to what's going on, are met with callous disregard. When he finally bursts out, "I'm dying, Rita," her response is, "I know, dear. Try to look on the positive side."
It soon becomes apparent that the entire family is jaw-droppingly dysfunctional. The couple's son, Curtis (sincerely played by Vincent Kadlubek) and daughter, Lisa, arrive at the hospital, only to discover, after they've entered the room, that their father is in the final stages of cancer. ("We didn't want to bother you," explains Rita matter-of-factly.} The fact that Curtis is gay and his father pretty much despises him, adds still further to the dysfunctional mix.
Then there's Lisa, a divorced, alcoholic mother of two, who is desperately trying to forge some kind of meaningful connection, after years with an abusive husband. She is shocked to learn, not only that her father is dying, but that her parents think one of her young sons may be retarded. "Have you had him tested?" they repeatedly ask. Both offspring unload years of pent-up resentments, angrily heaping blame on their inadequate parents for messing up their lives. Since neither of them seems capable of a meaningful relationship, their complaints are not without merit. Clearly, there's no love lost and no real concern or connection between any of these characters.
It gets worse. Secrets are revealed, vicious words are exchanged, expletives abound and it's clear that, circumstances notwithstanding, bickering and insults are the only way these people can relate to each other. Ben's impending death, far from bringing out the best in them, is almost irrelevant.
This is a challenging play and kudos to the Santa Fe Playhouse for having the courage to take it on. It also says much for the local talent available in this exceptionally artistic town, that the cast is able to carry it off so well. Alaina Warren Zachary, in particular, does a great job with the demanding part of Rita, the overbearing, suffocating and constantly belittling wife and mother.
THE LYONS runs through April 13, but a word of caution. Although the play is about a family, this is definitely not family fare. Apart from the liberal use of four letter words (one in particular) there is also adult content, which you may not want to find yourself having to try to explain to your kids. So before you head over to the box office, be sure you have a baby sitter. You'll be glad you did.
For further info: www.santafeplayhouse.org
Photo courtesy of Melissa Chambers.