Written by Nicky Silver
Directed by Genie Croft
Women’s Theatre Project
at Willow Theatre, Boca Raton, Florida
Solid acting fails to save discordant play
The most fortunate character in the Southeastern Florida premiere of The Lyons is family patriarch Ben Lyons, (Kevin Reilley) who gets to die just before Act II.
When the play opens, cancer-ridden Ben lies in his hospital deathbed. Wife Rita (Jessica K. Peterson) sits beside him, leafing through a magazine. Fascinated by photos of varied living room decors and eager to begin redecoration, she is scarcely able to await his demise. He, in turn is furious, a cantankerous old man with a foul mouth.
Ah, we appear to have a comedy, a thought that is reinforced by the introduction of semi-recovering alcoholic daughter Lisa (Jacqueline (Laggy), recently divorced from an abusive mate and the mother of a possibly retarded child, and gay son Curtis (Matthew Korinko), a double failure both as author and lover. What an unpleasant crew.
While the behavior of this dysfunctional family continually borders on the bizarre, it often goes too far, jarring belief as in such moments as the one where Lisa realizes that a tender shared memory she recalls is not from her own life but from the movie “Kramer vs. Kramer.”
The second act suddenly shifts setting — from hospital room to empty apartment — and focus — from angry father to desperate son. The sturm and drang in Act I, contrasts with the seemingly quieter second act with its long, sometimes tedious, dialogue between Curtis and a gay real estate salesman (Clay Cartland). However, this, too escalates, building to hostility and ending with brief, inept fisticuffs. This switch from father to son is anticlimactic. Just whose play is th
Maybe it is still dad’s because now Ben amazingly reappears, perhaps not dead at all. No, he is dead all right but his few lines from in front of the stage curtain (but beyond the grave) provide enough time to switch the stage set back to the same hospital room where injured Curtis is now the patient. Once again Mom and sis visit– just as isolated and unsympathetic as they were towards dad. And, oh yes, there is also a nurse (Carolyn Johnson) who provides some much-needed humanity.
Of three criteria for drama — conflict, suspense, and concern for character, The Lyons offers only conflict.
Well, what to say in praise? The acting is quite good, especially Peterson as the long-suffering wife playing a wide range of emotions in varied confrontations with family members. Several in the audience stood to applaud her performance. In addition, intimate Willow Theater is set in charming Sugar Sand Park which boasts a Children’s Science Explorium, and a delightful, multi-level playground complete with fortresses and sprinklers as well as a working carousel.
The Lyons is certainly dark comedy — far more dark than comic and with far more potential than realization.
Beverly Friend, Ph.D.
Willow Theater at Sugar Sand Park, 3001 South Military Trail, Boca Raton, Florida, Tickets #25