Unlike at the movies, sequels are rarely seen at the theater. But “Too Much Sun,” the latest work by the prolific playwright Nicky Silver, could be viewed as a sequel to his family drama “The Lyons.” If not technically a sequel, it certainly feels like a repeat of the former experience.
“The Lyons” also started out at Off-Broadway’s Vineyard Theatre (before it transferred to Broadway in 2012) and starred Linda Lavin as a difficult Jewish mother dealing with frustrated grown-up children and showing a nonchalant attitude in the face of crisis. Mark Brokaw once again serves as the director.
In “The Lyons,” Lavin’s character spent most of her time in a hospital room. While her lonely husband laid dying, she contemplated redecorating her living room. In “Too Much Sun,” Lavin plays Audrey, a formerly famous actress who has lost her fortune and been reduced to doing theater across the country.
After suffering a breakdown during a dress rehearsal for a Chicago production of the Greek tragedy “Medea,” Audrey runs away to the summer house of daughter Kitty (Jennifer Westfeldt), where she and her husband Dennis are in no way prepared to deal with Audrey’s diva behavior. Once there, Audrey eyes the rich widower next door and makes moves to ensure her financial future.
"Too Much Sun” feels like an early draft of what could be a promising play. While Audrey is an amusing character, it is undercut by a surplus of subplots, including an affair between Kitty’s husband and a younger man and the attempts of Gil, the harried assistant of Audrey’s agent, to convince Audrey to return to the stage or risk the end of her career. The pace is also harmed by unnecessary short monologues.
Lavin, as expected, offers another enjoyable, easygoing turn marked by expert comedic abilities. Westfeldt, who appeared in another Off-Broadway show at the Public Theater just a few weeks ago, captures Kitty’s heightened emotions. If the play can be revised to focus more intently on the dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship, “Too Much Sun” might have a future.
If you go: “Too Much Sun” plays at the Vineyard Theatre through June 22. 108 E. 15th St., vineyardtheatre.org.