The first-rate cast — Linda Lavin, Dick Latessa, Michael Esper, Kate Jennings Grant, Brenda Pressley and Gregory Wooddell — has made the trip north after the production made its debut last fall off-Broadway at The Vineyard Theatre. Mark Brokaw returns as the director, and the play has been trimmed into a tighter, harder little gem...Lavin is an absolute wonder to behold as Rita Lyons, a nag of a mother with a collection of firm beliefs and eye rolls, a matriarch who is both suffocating and keeping everyone at arm’s length.
THE LYONS Broadway Reviews
Reviews of The Lyons on Broadway. See what all the critics had to say and see all the ratings for The Lyons including the New York Times and More...
In a Broadway season full of transfers from Off-Broadway, Nicky Silver's "The Lyons" comes charging onto the Great White Way with a savage roar that is simultaneously a scream of pain and a shout of dark laughter. The script has been trimmed somewhat, and the performances and staging have been pitched slightly broader to accommodate the larger house after a successful run at the Vineyard Theatre, but this merciless comedy of a dysfunctional family dealing with mortality and regret is still an intimate and scary examination of how we cope with loneliness and disappointment. Linda Lavin continues to give a master class in comic timing.
Sure, from a distance the title characters of “The Lyons,” the Nicky Silver play that opened on Monday night at the Cort Theater in a production starring the fabulous Linda Lavin, are hilarious as they kick the ego out of one another. But look at them close — no, closer — and you’re likely to find an intimate mirror of your own frightened self. Welcome to Broadway at last, Mr. Silver. And might I add that that this cozy-but-nasty family portrait is just the right vehicle to bring you here?
...thanks to the complexities of Lavin’s characterization, the penetrating insights of Silver’s writing, and the imperceptible calibrations of Mark Brokaw’s crisp production, Rita is no mere monster of insensitivity. The degree to which she accepts responsibility for her children being “sad and unforgiving,” and for her own entrapment in a 40-year marriage to a man she never loved is clear. That doesn’t mean, however, that she’s atoning. Silver’s play doesn’t go in for such banalities. But in addition to being a maestro of timing with her comic delivery, Lavin has a peerless ability to humanize her characters even while exposing their lacerating edges.
“The Lyons” is blessed with Mark Brokaw’s nimble direction and a cast that mines all the dissonance as if each little imbroglio comes popping hot from a precious nugget. Lavin is the outright leader in this — everything from her New York accent to the world-weary mini-whine in her voice to the roll of her eyes says this is a woman who knows her mind and wants nothing to do with anyone else’s. The wonderful Dick Latessa is her dying husband; even though Silver gives him far too many cheap barbs based solely on high-level cursing, Latessa is a pro with the know-how to land them...“The Lyons” works best as lashing comedy, less as a meaningful look at anything. And there’s enough funny lashing to leave an audience happily smarting.
Death looms large in Nicky Silver’s Broadway play, “The Lyons,” a caustic and canny comedy about family dysfunction packed with surprises that are alternately hilarious, tragic and absurd. Emerging just as big as the Grim Reaper in her ferociously funny and constantly compelling star turn is Linda Lavin, who plays a wife (and soon-to-be-widow) and mother whose bark and bite can wreak havoc. And has.
Nicky Silver’s “The Lyons” — which opened on Broadway last night after a hit run at the Vineyard — is packed with such sweet nothings. When you hear them delivered by pros like Dick Latessa and Linda Lavin, it’s comedy nirvana.
One of the reasons we expect so much out of Broadway shows is that they cost so much to see. Nicky Silver's "The Lyons," which transferred to Broadway this week, is a clever little dysfunctional-family comedy that contains at least twice its fair share of laughs. Though it's more than a bit of a mess, "The Lyons" has its moments, and Linda Lavin, the star, is in sensational form. Off Broadway, that amounted to a passable bargain—but is it really worth $126.50 to see an amusing but inconsistent show? All I can tell you is that despite its extreme unevenness, "The Lyons" is never boring.
As a dysfunctional family drama, "The Lyons" is hardly as penetrating as "Clybourne Park" or "Other Desert Cities." But as directed by Mark Brokaw, it's entertaining and full of witty one-liners. Lavin delivers a wild performance marked by wide facial expressions, an often screeching voice and kooky personality. She is nicely supported by an emaciated Latessa, tortured Grant and seemingly helpless Esper.
On second viewing now that it has transferred to Broadway, I find the performances broader and the play slighter...One can suspect these changes were effected to accommodate the more mainstream theatergoers of Broadway, but, even if so, I am not scandalized. What worked in “The Lyons” downtown still works. The acting still could not be better. Linda Lavin gives a nuanced (if louder) performance that should not be missed. She may initially seem little more than a quirky caricature but she winds up something more, different, thought-provoking.
But outside the confines of that fluorescent-lit, pressure-packed, disinfected room, The Lyons feels ill at ease. Though Silver has wisely excised Lisa's rambling Alcoholics Anonymous monologue since the late 2011 Off Broadway run, an extended apartment-showing scene lingers at the top of act two; and on second viewing, it seems less compatible with the witty whirlwind we've just witnessed. (It actually feels like a short play in itself, like one that might appear at the EST Marathon mentioned in the scene — 10 points for audience members who get that inside-NYC-theater reference.) It does provide a convenient route back to the hospital, where comic order is, thankfully, restored. But there's only so much struggling-actor shtick a viewer can take, even from a hunky blond broad-shouldered broker (Gregory Wooddell). Besides, that all-white apartment could really use a Rita Lyons makeover."
"The Lyons" — and shouldn't that be "The Lyonses," as the plural form of a name ending in "s"? — works only half the time. But that half, taking the notion of family dysfunction to the outer limits of humor, is darkly entertaining theater.