Many families are warm, forgiving, gentle, and supportive of one another.
The Lyons are none of these things.
When the family patriarch lies on deaths door the gathering of wife and children are anything but comforting in the older man’s last moments. The longstanding battle between husband (Richard Mueller) and wife (Andrea MacDonald) has boiled over and he is done with being polite. Ben’s dropping F bombs left and right, he’s abrasive, he’s upset, and he’s very resentful toward the family he’s helped to create. And Rita’s basking in the glow of that resentment, she’s bathing in his hate as she promises to redecorate the living room once he’s gone and persistently feigns to misunderstand every warm memory the patriarch tries to share. The wordplay between the two is as hilarious as it is cruel.
And that right there is what you’re going to find at the The Lyons; wordplay that’s savage, cruel, hilarious, and maybe a little sadistic. I know I laughed out loud- I know that it was feeding a little dark part of my own self, holding a mirror to some of the shadows in my own family life and giving me a certain degree of ventilation and schadenfreude. I admit there’s a little sadistic part of me that found it a pure joy to laugh at all the horrible things these people said to one another. I’m not ashamed to admit that I virtually guffawed at various points. I had to laugh or I would cry, and there’s plenty to laugh about when you realize that these people most likely deserve one another. None of them are put upon by one another, their suffering is often self-inflicted, and each one of them have fallen into a pattern of abuse and codependency.
Daughter Lisa shows up with an excuse for being late, blaming the traffic and a lack of parking that her family is quick to demolish. She immediately starts in with her own melodrama, making semi-veiled references to her “sponsor”, her youngest being with a sitter while the oldest is spending time with the father, and we are quick to find out that she systematically attempts to make every struggle and pain into something she can own, protect, and cater in an attempt to gather what she sees as sympathy or attention. Actress Penelope Morgan is fantastic and her comic timing is spot on when she’s taking offense at a perceived slight or reacting to the dramatic revelation of her father’s impending death.
Curtis arrives and sparks immediately fly between the siblings, showing a rivalry that’s been going on for their entire lives. More than that, Curtis is homosexual, much to the displeasure of his dying father. And where Lisa is the poor victim, Curtis lives his life as anything but- he’s snarky, arrogant, dismissive, and maybe even a little cruel with his personal interactions. And all of that is played to the hilt by Lucas Tovey. He’s absolutely brilliant in the role and makes the deliciously unpleasant Curtis into a mesmerizing character you can’t help but enjoy watching as he copes with both personal and family drama.
Both children are the product of their parents never ending feud, both embittered and morally questionable brats with few redeeming qualities. Their mutual sniping is virtually encouraged by the parents, and all four snipe at one another throughout the first act with the occasional interruption from a nurse (Marjorie Lowery) who goes nameless throughout much of the play. Don’t be afraid to laugh because the situation seems so bleak. These reprehensible creatures deserve every chuckle you can muster up.
The second act follows Curtis as he continues to cope with the impending loss of his father and certain revelations that have left him too exposed for comfort. He works through several of these issues with his real estate agent, Brian(David Naar). Maybe we start to see a gentler side to Curtis, or maybe this is just more manipulation and cruelty, or maybe something between- I’m not going to say much more beyond the fact that the scene is as powerful as it is comedic.
When the family eventually reunites again, the gloves come off and the fur starts to fly. Watch yourself, because emotional blood is poured out on the stage and all participants gleefully stomp on the gory remains and swim through all that soup for the smallest opportunity to stick another dagger in. If you’ve never had dealings with these kinds of people, you are blessed and you’ll be absolutely shocked into outrageous laughter. If you’re familiar with these people, I sympathize and highly recommend laughing at these people who have so negatively affected our own lives.
The Lyons plays at the new Paper Wing Fremont on Fridays and Saturdays, from 8 pm to 10. The show closes on 4/19/14, so take advantage of the opportunity while it lasts and support the local arts.