BWW Reviews: Fantastic Ensemble Brings Dark, Witty THE LYONS to Life at 2nd Story
"Family is conflict and it's something that we all relate to," according to Bill Cosby, who has made a very long career out of finding the humor in family conflicts. His television shows and standup routines probably never had anything quite like the family conflicts found in Nicky Silver's play The Lyons, now playing at 2nd Story Theatre in Warren. Even though the drama and conflict is ratcheted pretty high in this production, there are still many moments every audience member can and will relate to, whether they want to admit it or not.
Playwright Nicky Silver is known for his pitch black humor and acerbic wit, found in many of his plays, including the well-known Pterodactyls and Raised in Captivity. In 2012, The Lyons became his first play to appear on Broadway, the others being Off-Broadway productions, and it received a number of award nominations, including a Tony nomination for best lead actress in a play. The story revolves around a family, the Lyons, who have gathered in the hospital room where the patriarch, Ben, is dying of cancer. His wife and two children are there and events quickly spiral out of control as secrets are revealed and truths are finally set free.
Director Mark Peckham keeps things moving very briskly. He has left most of the work up to Silver's sharp, funny script and his talented group of actors. Events unfold, for the most part, organically, never seeming rushed or fake. When there are actual silences, Pekcham has allowed his cast to let the silence live and breathe, making it all the more powerful, until the right moment for a natural beginning to the next beat.
Leading Peckham's great cast is Vince Petronio as the soon-to-be-deceased father. Petronio spends most of the play in a hospital bed but still manages to give a tour de force performance. His charisma and energy are seemingly endless, although he doesn't even need them all the time. He's often able to perfectly convey a reaction or emotion with a simple facial expression or look in his eyes.
As his wife, Rita, Paula Faber gives an equally energetic performance. She seems to be having a lot of fun playing this woman who will finally be free of the marriage and life that she may have never really wanted. Faber's Rita is unapologetic as she makes plans for redecorating the living room after her husband's death and then makes big plans for her own life and her next big move. It's an honest portrayal of a woman who may have other women in the audience cheering her on, although they wouldn't take the same actions in their own lives.
The Lyons have two adult children, Lisa and Curtis. Lisa is played by the wonderful Lara Hakeem who is perfectly cast here. Her Lisa is a woman who's been through a lot in her life, a single mother of two with a lifelong bout with alcoholism. It's another highly relatable performance of a character who is just trying to figure everything out and make it work. The audience can really feel and relate to her exasperation and desperation, not to mention the bit of hope she may feel by the play's end.
Curtis, the other Lyons child, is beset with his own problems, including a failing writing career and the fact that his "boyfriends" have all been imaginary. The always reliable Kevin Broccoli plays Curtis with just the right amount of snark and wit, while still managing to gain the audience's sympathy along the way. Broccoli's scene with Jeff Church as Brian, a real estate agent, is one of the play's highlights. It's a pleasure to watch these two pros bounce off each other on stage. Also nice to see Church play something a little bit different, a character who's less earnest and more dark and violent.
As a whole, the ensemble makes the play fun to watch, even though the material can be a little unsettling or uncomfortable. That's because it is so real. Every audience member will either laugh because they know somebody like that or because they are just like that themselves. It's that kind of mirror held up to humanity that makes a play like this so entertaining and so worth seeing. And it doesn't hurt to have a great writer like Nicky Silver and a fantastic group of actors along for the ride.
Performances of The Lyons are January 16 to February 9, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00pm and Sundays at 3:00pm. Tickets are $25. For tickets, visit the box office at 28 Market Street, Warren, Rhode Island, or call 401-247-4200 or buy online at www.2ndstorytheatre.com.