Roberta on the Arts
Linda Lavin and Dick Latessa in "The Lyons" at Vineyard Theatre
Contact Roberta
Jazz and Cabaret Corner
On Location with Roberta
In the Galleries: Artists and Photographers
Backstage with the Playwrights and Filmmakers
Classical and Cultural Connections
New CDs
Arts and Education
Onstage with the Dancers
Offstage with the Dancers
Upcoming Events
Special Events
Culture from Chicago
Our Sponsors

Linda Lavin and Dick Latessa in "The Lyons" at Vineyard Theatre

- Backstage with the Playwrights

Ariston Florist
110 West 17th Street,
NY, NY 10011
Fax: 212-242-5479

Family Owned Florist.
The Finest and Freshest
Imported Flowers!
Weddings, Banquets,
Corporate Events
Personal Decorating
Gift Arrangements!
Ask for Theodore.

Vineyard Theatre
Douglas Aibel, Artistic Director
Jennifer Garvey-Blackwell, Exec. Director

The Lyons
At the
Vineyard Theatre
(Vineyard Theatre Website)
Gertrude and Irving Dimson Theatre
108 East 15th Street
NY, NY 10003

By Nicky Silver
Directed by Mark Brokaw

Michael Esper, Kate Jennings Grant,
Dick Latessa, Linda Lavin,
Brenda Pressley, Gregory Wooddell

Set Design: Allen Moyer
Costume Design: Michael Krass
Lighting Design: David Lander
Original Music & Sound Design: David Van Tieghem
Fight Director: Thomas Schall
Production Stage Manager: Roy Harris
Production Managers: Ben Morris, David Nelson
Casting: Henry Russell Bergstein, CSA
Press: Sam Rudy Media Relations
Co-Artistic Director: Sarah Stern
Managing Director: Rebecca Habel

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
November 4, 2011

There is no actor today who can extrapolate the gestures and vocal tones of the quintessential Jewish mother better than Linda Lavin. In Other Desert Cities, Off-Broadway last season, Ms. Lavin was an alcoholic aunt, who could raise an arm and twirl it to catapult the audience into laughter. In Nicky Silverís The Lyons, a play on words, as the family name is actually Lyons, and they behave in zoo-like, primal attack mode. The city hospital room, in presumably some kind of hospice ward, has some flowers here, some morphine there, and a dying husband, Dick Latessa as Ben Lyons, hurling swear words at his long-suffering, acerbic wife, Ms. Lavin as Rita Lyons. At first the language is riotous, but it wears on the viewer, with relentless monosyllabic anger. Rita focuses on an architectural magazine, so she can redecorate, when Ben dies. Ben focuses on begging Rita to remember the good old days, but Rita is already post-mourning, even sitting next to her very alive husband. Ben canít get a break, even from their daughter, Lisa Lyons (Kate Jennings Grant), whoís a divorced, recovering alcoholic, trying to find love in this steel-cold space. Rita hadnít even told her two children about Benís terminal illness, probably to avoid the need for togetherness that seems to paralyze this familyís emotions.

Rita and Benís son, the second child, is Curtis Lyons (Michael Esper), whose gay lifestyle is practically blamed for precipitating his fatherís demise. Dark humor runs rampant, but everyone in the room is reeking of pain. Curtis seems friendless and loveless, and in Act II he makes a mistaken stab at a relationship. The scene is a faux real estate meeting, to buy a small condo, but, in fact, itís the realtor, Gregory Wooddell, as the tall, handsome Brian, whoís the object of Curtisí desire. Through a series of questions and accusations, the tension builds to a fight. Subsequent twists and turns in Mr. Silverís play enlighten, embolden, and enhance the future of both Lisa and Curtis. As for Ben, one can surmise his fate, and, as for Rita, she pulls a devilish prank in her own quest for self-preservation. Rounding out the cast is Brenda Pressley as the Nurse, who excellently portrays a health care worker for whom death is a constant chore. Sheís tough as nails, but eventually finds her own source of companionship.

Ms. Lavin was essential to the success of this ensemble play, with subtle shrugs and smirks, a crossing of legs, a turn of the wrist. This actor rivets the eye with extraordinary skill. Mr. Latessa never missed a beat, with tight timing of each one-liner. But, when Ms. Grant, as Lisa, tried to tell him of a special memory of their love, then couldnít think of one, the pauses and pain were palpable. One other scene in Act II involves Lisa at an alcoholics anonymous meeting, and Ms. Grant evokes a level of poignancy thatís intrinsic to her persona. Mr. Esper portrayed Curtis as the most needy and isolated of the Lyons, exuding a level of obsessive desperation that became shocking in the Act II real estate scene. Mr. Wooddell, although briefly onstage, showed a significant ability to morph his personality with acute naturalness. And, Ms. Pressley is an actor Iíd like to see again in a meatier role. Mark Brokaw directed for nuanced attitudinal cues and biting wit, amidst the angst of a family in distress. Allen Moyerís shifting set, that turned a busy hospital room into a bare studio apartment, was extremely well conceived. Kudos to all.

Linda Lavin, Dick Latessa,
Kate Jennings Grant in
Nicky Silver's "The Lyons"
Courtesy of Carol Rosegg

Kate Jennings Grant
and Michael Esper in
Nicky Silver's "The Lyons"
Courtesy of Carol Rosegg

Brenda Pressley in
Nicky Silver's "The Lyons"
Courtesy of Carol Rosegg

Linda Lavin in
Nicky Silver's "The Lyons"
Courtesy of Carol Rosegg

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at