Since I didn't much like Nicky Silver's black comedy when I saw it in a lab production at the Vineyard Theatre last season, I had low expectations when I returned today to see the finished product. I was pleasantly surprised. The humor has been sharpened, the pathos has been deepened, and Silver displays more sympathy toward his characters. While I still have some misgivings, I thought it played much better this time around.
Terminally ill patriarch Ben Lyons (Dick Latessa). who has been a distant husband and father; his embittered wife Rita (Linda Lavin), who looks forward to widowhood; divorced daughter Lisa (Kate Jennings Grant), who met her ex at an AA meeting; and gay son Curtis (Michael Esper), an unsuccessful writer who has never let his family meet his lover, all go at each other in Ben's hospital room. The nurse (Brenda Pressley) appears now and then to check on Ben. Later, when Curtis goes apartment hunting with hunky realtor/actor Brian (Gregory Wooddell), there are unanticipated consequences. The final scene, back at the hospital, provides vivid proof that being surrounded by one's family can be the loneliest place of all. Mark Brokaw's direction, Allen Moyer's sets and Michael Krass's costumes are all on the mark.
When Linda Lavin turned down the chance to move to Broadway with "Other Desert Cities" in order to play Rita Lyons at the Vineyard, many people were surprised. Smart move! This is a role that she was born to play and is much juicier than her smallish part in the Baitz play. If you are a Lavin fan and/or a Nicky Silver fan, you will have a good time at "The Lyons."
Running time: 2 hours, 5 minutes including intermission