BWW Reviews: THE LYONS at Round House Theatre - Hear it Roar
How does one pronounce the title of this play THE LYONS. My wife kidded me by sounding it out this way: the LEEONES. Why? Our son's father-in-law lives in Lyon, France (quite a beautiful city by the way).
But playwright Nicky Silver said this about naming his play. "I didn't name them the Lyons by chance. I'll say that . I think that they are a combative group, which is not to say that they don't love each other very much. For whatever reason, each of them has been isolated in some way and is fighting pretty ruthlessly to find some kind of completion, some kind of connection that they don't have naturally."
This family growls, scratches, roars, screams, and seems to bite each other...sort of like any typical American family.
The play opens with the elder Lyons, Ben (the superb John Lescault) on a hospital bed dying from cancer. His wife Rita (the amazing Naomi Jacobson) by his side planning to decorate the living room...finally. "How about a Marrakesh theme" she asks her dying husband who always replies to her using some sort of expletive. She adds, "I know you won't be there to enjoy it." Ben counters with, "I'm dying Rita." Rita replies, "I know Dear. Try to look on the positive side. It's not so bad. Jews don't go to hell...and what have you ever done - you're not going to hell."
Ben and Rita have two children. The first to arrive in the hospital room is Lisa (played by the wonderful Kimberbly Gilbert who we last saw with an Irish accent the Round House THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE). She's a reformed alcoholic, divorced, with two children. Rita tells her almost matter-of-factly that her father is about to die and they've known this for several months without telling the children. Lisa is flabbergasted. She's also shocked to learn that her parents believe one of her children is retarded. They ask, "Have you had him tested?"
When asked why it took so long for them to tell her about her father's condition, her mother commented, "We didn't want to bother you". She then asks her to express a feeling, something meaningful. Lisa talks about a time when she was little and in a playground, and when no one is looking, falls and gets injured. She's told she's talking about a scene from the film "Kramer v. Kramer". Yes...there's a lot of laughter...dark, very dark humor.
Son Curtis then arrives. He writes short stories, is gay and allegedly has had a partner for three years. After being told about the reality of the situation. his mother says, "Let's talk about something else...something pleasant." There's a LONG silence.
In anger, both children reveal secrets to their parents about their relationships. Lisa reveals that Curtis does not in reality have a partner. It's all imaginary. Later, Curtis surprises Lisa but informing their parents that Lisa was in fact beaten by her divorced husband. They are a cantankerous bunch and in the middle of a crisis.
Later in the play, after their father dies, it's Curtis who finds himself in the same hospital room, with the same nurse, and he's acting very much like his father. It is here that Rita tells her children that she's done with them and they are now responsible for themselves. She wants to flee the coup and start her life over. It's quite a dramatic moment and Jacobson is in her element. She's an accomplished actress. Linda Lavin played this role on Broadway and I couldn't help seeing Lavin as Rita. But Jacobson does not play second fiddle. Her role certainly could play on Broadway. She's that good.
The terrific cast also includes Brandon McCoy as a real-estate salesman/actor and Gabriela Fernandez-Coffey as the nurse.
Director John Vreeke is an expert on Silver's work. He's a Company Member at Woolly Mammoth Theatre where they have done four of Silver's work. Kudos to Vreeke for doing a masterful job. I noticed in his credits that he was an Associate Producer and Casting Associate for the CBS his TV series "Northern Exposure" (which I loved). In the script, listen closely for an homage to this.
Rounding out the team is Misha Kachman (Scenic Designer), Rosemary Pardee (Costume Designer), Colin K. Bills (Lighting Designer) and Matthew M Nielson (Sound Designer).
THE LYONS runs until December 22, 2013...not your typical holiday fare but very entertaining. For tickets call 240-644-1100 or visit www.roundhousetheatre.org. There are $10 tickets for all on "$10 Tuesdays" on December 10 and 17. There are also discounts for senior citizens, those 30 and uncer, military and veterans who can attend for $20. There are also Post-Show talkbacks on December 8 and 15.