Review: The Lyons at the Cort Theatre


It’s always nice to be reminded that there are millions of dysfunctional families in this world.

The Lyons on Broadway is just one of those shows.  It may even make you feel better about your own life.

But whatever the case, it’s a terrific Broadway show.  One of the best I’ve seen in a long time.

The skeletons that come out of the closet during this course of this show about three family members rallying around their dying father in his last days.  It could not get any more sordid.  Ben Lyons is dying of cancer and just wants a bit of peace and quiet.  But all his wife wants to do is talking about redoing the living room.

“Is it too much to want a fresh start?” she asks when he objects. “Is it too much to hope for a clean palate?”

Then when the phone rings, he says: “God, I hope it’s death.”

There are plenty of memorable lines in this show, but it’s the story-line that keeps you hanging off the edge of your seat.  Ben thinks his life has been worthless, and makes it very clear that his family members contributed to his failures.  His son, a writer who has a slate of imaginary friends, mostly gay, is the “Head Marshall” of all of them.  As his son sits in his hospital room trying to come to terms with the way his father treated him, he berates him. Then he finds out that his daughter, who is a recovering alcoholic and was/is abused by his ex-husband.  He can’t get any peace before his imminent death.  In addition, his wife didn’t even tell his children that their father was dying.  She was too busy playing backgammon, apparently. This upsets them, to say the least.

But all that happens in the first act.  In the second act, it all comes to a head.  Dad dies and the three are left to pick up the pieces of someone who seemingly cared little about them on the outside.  The culminating effect is intense.

The Lyons was written by Nicky Silver.  The cast includes Linda Lavin, Dick Latessa, Michael Esper, Kate Jennings Grant, Brenda Pressley and Gregory Wooddell.  It debuted last fall off-Broadway at The Vineyard Theatre.

Linda Lavin is a gem in this show.  As the matriarch of the family, who either wants to hold a tight reign on the family or he completely hands off.  She sets her single daughter up with a man in the hospital – who’s dying of lymphoma; when her daughter walks into the hospital, she questions her by asking if she’d had him tested – he may be “just a little bit retarded” (I really have a hatred for that word and flinched every time it was mentioned – I wondered if the playwright used it to describe her narrow-mindedness?).  You don’t know whether to like her or hate her.

As for Latessa, who plays the dying father, while he’s cruel, and skews out curse words every other second, you know deep down that there is love for his family.  And their dedication to them in his last days is true.

Esper, who I recently saw in Assistance at Playwrights Horizons, is brilliant as a rejected son who shows us how his upbringing is bringing him down as an adult.  But in the end, we see both him and his sister survive.  Jennings is equally affective as a woman trying to deal with her aging parents and life as a single mom.  I found myself relating to her problems and seeing the actress really feel her abandonment as the show went on.

Tickets can be purchased by calling Telecharge at (212) 239-6200, online or in person at the The Cort Theatre, 138 West 48th Street.

Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post.  I was not compensated in any way,

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