BWW Review: THE LYONS MAKE DYING FUN at West Coast Players
"We put the 'fun' in dysfunctional," quipped actor Stephen Riordan who plays Curtis in West Coast Players' production of Nicky Silver's THE LYONS, running through March 19.
Ron Zietz, multitasks as director and Ben Lyons, the seething, bedridden, soon to be not-so-dearly departed, has chosen an exceptional cast to skewer what should be a serious, loving, emotional time to say goodbye to the patriarch of the family.
Set in a hospital room, instead of tender moments, a belittling passive-aggressive wife and mother is more interested in changing the living room and moving on with her life, then providing comfort to her dying husband.
Ron plays the dying husband perfectly, looking miserable, pained and imprisoned with his family in the hospital room. Ron's best line, the cast's overall favorite and Ben's response to most everything, now that he free of consequences - "Go F- yourself."
And then there's Rita, the dutiful Jewish wife. I adore Rita.
She (Colleen Coughenour) has many of the best lines and steals the show as a perfectly coiffed, manicured devil, torturing her trapped husband, telling him everything she plans to do with his money... once he's deceased. Colleen perfectly captures Rita's insensitivity and surprisingly, honest emotional anguish in a scene where she is alone in the room with her sleeping husband. Despite falling out of love, she has no idea who she is without being his other half.
To better understand the depth of Rita's thoughtlessness, she neglected to tell her children about their father until the end because first she didn't want to bother them and more importantly, she was in a Backgammon tournament.
She is so unfiltered and oblivious, even one of Lisa's children that she protected from coming to the hospital, can't escape her contemptuous evaluation. "Have you had him tested? Well dear, it's just that he seems, to me, to be just a little bit retarded."
Enter the recovering-alcoholic daughter, Lisa (Jacquelyn Flaherty) who's still in love with her ex-husband whom she's thinks she can fix, who Rita accuses of causing her daughter's drinking. Lisa counters, "We met in AA." Jacquelyn's portrayal of Lisa is heartbreakingly authentic. The revelation at the end of act one is almost a non-shocker.
Add in gay son Curtis (Stephen Riordan), an unsuccessful writer with a vivid imagination, unloved by Ben and overly-pampered by Rita. Lisa's revelation about Curtis and his desperation in the search for love makes one want to hug him and tell him everything will be ok. Until the second act. When the flip switches during a house hunt with realtor Mark Meyers (Brian Hutchins), everything that Curtis has been holding in comes out and he is a scary individual. To go into more detail would spoil the surprise of the second act. I also enjoyed seeing Mark's fumbling, apologetic niceties give way to an unpredictable end.
With no love lost between this maladjusted family, the F-word and other expletives, insults, and accusations continually fly in this dark comedy about end of life.
"He's had a good life," says Rita to her children, sitting regally at his side blithely flipping through home décor magazines. "No I haven't," responds Ben, from his hospital bed.
An extremely telling, funny moment comes from a long silence after Rita's line to her family: "Let's talk about something pleasant."
The Lyons do not do pleasant. Or loving. Caring. Promise-keeping. Narcissism, hell yes, but pleasantries don't work in a family filled with loathing, anger, contempt, and self-pity.
Even the hospital nurse (Jessie Savilla) adds to the dysfunction, quiet and kind to Ben in the first act, and heartless and rude when someone else is in hospital bed during the second act.
The cast hopes the audience will see themselves in the best and worst parts of THE LYONS. Despite squirming uncomfortably in our comfortable seats and laughing despite ourselves, this was an enjoyable show.
I overheard when leaving the theatre, "it was depressing, but funny as hell." This perfectly defines Nicky's unapologetic, searing look at this defective family.