Theater Review: 'The Lyons' -- 3 stars
Linda Lavin could have come to Broadway earlier this season in either "Other Desert Cities" (she was in the Off-Broadway cast) or "Follies" (she was in the Washington, D.C., cast).
Surprisingly, she turned down both shows to star in Nicky Silver's biting family drama "The Lyons," which premiered Off-Broadway at the Vineyard Theatre in the fall and has now transferred to Broadway.
Lavin plays Rita Lyons, a domineering Jewish mother who spends most of the play ridiculing her children and husband with ease. She even contemplates redecorating her living room at the same time.
As Ben curses and wails that he's dying, she answers nonchalantly with "Yes, I know. Try to be positive." She also suggests that one of her grandkids is mentally challenged.
Act One takes place in a hospital room, where Rita's husband, Ben (Dick Latessa), is dying of cancer. Strangely enough, Rita and Ben had not previously informed their grown-up children Lisa (Kate Jennings Grant) or Curtis (Michael Esper) about Ben's condition.
Curtis, a gay short-story writer, breezily handles the news. But Lisa, a single mother and recovering alcoholic, is in shock and angry at her mother.
More revelations pop up, including that Lisa's former husband beat her and how Curtis has lied for years about having a boyfriend.
In the less engaging second act, Curtis stalks a handsome real estate broker by pretending to be interested in an empty apartment, which ends with him getting beat up pretty badly.
As a dysfunctional family drama, "The Lyons" is hardly as penetrating as "Clybourne Park" or "Other Desert Cities." But as directed by Mark Brokaw, it's entertaining and full of witty one-liners.
Lavin delivers a wild performance marked by wide facial expressions, an often screeching voice and kooky personality. She is nicely supported by an emaciated Latessa, tortured Grant and seemingly helpless Esper.
If you go: "The Lyons" plays an open run at the Cort Theatre, 138 W. 48th St., 212-239-6200, thelyonsbroadway.com.