Linda Lavin As a Ferocious Mother in The Lyons: My Review

Categories: Theater

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Few people could play a maternal monster like the one in Nicky Silver's The Lyons and make her as hilarious and non-clichéd as Linda Lavin does.

Lavin's timing is impeccable as ever as she decimates people with words, then follows her barbs with a self-satisfied half-smile that seems to say, "Well, it's true!"

At the hospital bed of husband Dick Latessa (also wonderful), Lavin's character seems to be urging him toward death while flipping through a decor magazine. ("You're just a little man with little sins. . . . What do you think of Chinese modern?")

She assures her recovering alcoholic daughter, Lisa (Kate Jennings Grant), that she should get her son tested to see if he's a "retard," also urging Lisa to flirt with a guy down the hall who has "last-stage lymphoma."

Mama tells the son, Curtis (Michael Esper)--a gay writer with a too-vivid fantasy life--that he's a mediocre talent at best, which he may well be, but after all, Mom and Pop created him.

And by the way, they didn't tell the kids that Daddy's got cancer (which has spread "to the asparagus," says Lavin before correcting it to "esophagus") until the very last minute. For their own good!

Silver's pitch dark comedy--another in his line of acidic dyfunctional-family romps--gives us a clan of disconnected souls, all lonely and yearning, but making things worse for one another via hectoring and putdowns.

The play relies a little too much on the crusty, cursing old person and sassily efficient black-nurse types, but Silver generally pumps his clichés with originality.

And though it seems odd when Act Two suddenly makes Curtis the lead character, it does bring two lovely surprises--a confrontation scene that reveals the depths of Curtis's loneliness, and a new emergence for the materfamilias, who's sized up the reality of her life and has made a plan.

A simultaneously light and dark evening of family warfare Silver-style, this is zippily bracing stuff--Oh Dad, Poor Dad for the AA crowd--with a rivetingly funny Lavin.

But shouldn't it be the Lyonses?

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7 comments
Whompers
Whompers

Does she sing, "There's a new girl in town and she's feeling GOOD"?

billyjoe
billyjoe

She sounds like the kind of mother that gay men love to hate and love.

Keating3232
Keating3232

Why the fuck is this thing on Broadway? Won't last a minute past the Tonys.

Marquesa
Marquesa

Is there anything you DO like?

Bwaybill
Bwaybill

Loved Lavin in this. It's her best since Allergists Wife.

Derbingle
Derbingle

I love your reviews. You hit the nail every time, even when I don't agree.

Rogie
Rogie

By now it oughta be official as well as obvious. Musto's the Pauline Kael of NY theater reviews. (When Pauline was still good, mind you. Her final reviews were dreary - but then so were the films.)

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