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October 14, 2011

The No. 1 Reason To See: The Lyons

by Jesse North

lyons vineyard theatre linda lavin michael esper nicky silver posterAlthough it’s been written so many times, the new play The Lyons makes the statement ring truer than ever: You cannot choose your family. The titular clan is gathered at the hospital bedside of Ben (Dick Latessa), the patriarch, who is riddled with cancer and dying. His wife, Rita (Linda Lavin), is nonchalantly reading an interior design magazine, planning how to redecorate the living room once Ben is gone. Their two grown children (Kate Jennings Grant and Michael Esper) can’t seem to comfort their father for five minutes without digging up some complaint from the past about their parents. The hospital room becomes the setting for the clan’s final rumble together.

The No. 1 Reason To See The Lyons: Linda Lavin’s droll delivery and facial expressions
Playwright Nicky Silver’s lines were made to come out of Lavin’s mouth. In The Lyons, both author and actress have synched up beautifully to convey a vivid character who is communicating her thoughts with every gesture of her body. Lavin’s lines are casual, yet biting. She passes judgment on her family members as if they are mere harmless, passing thoughts, but while Lavin casually lets another zinger go, it doesn’t land so subtly on its target. Perhaps even better than her line delivery are Lavin’s movements. Well-timed eye rolls elicited squeals from the audience every time. Waves of her hand conveyed an ironic “Oh well” meaning in response to other characters’ crushing revelations. And when it comes time for Rita to give her children some good ol’ truth tellin’, Lavin concludes her confession by widening her lips and lifting her shoulders as if to say, “Eek! Did I just say that? Oh well!” Lavin is in such control of Silver’s flowing, natural dialogue—in The Lyons, she is the definition of cool, calm, and collected.

The Lyons general rush policy: Depending on availability, up to two tickets per person may be purchased for $20, beginning two hours prior to the performance.

lyons vineyard theatre linda lavin nicky silver

Photo: Carol Rosegg

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