Linda Lavin (credit: Jemal Countess/Getty Images)
The Tony Awards, set to air June 10 on CBS, are fast approaching! And Linda Lavin is up for a Leading Actress award for her portrayal of Rita Lyons, the matriarch of the dysfunctional family in Nicky Silver’s The Lyons. Lavin already has a Tony on her mantle for her performance in 1987’s Broadway Bound, and she’s poised to add another one.
Lavin’s performance has attracted much of the attention. Her facial expressions capture her character’s thoughts, connecting to the material and bringing Rita to life. The New York Times remarked “…no one can fault the hair-trigger timing of the actress … or the surprising dimensions she finds within one-liners.” The Village Voice called Lavin “a purveyor of gigantic nuances, comic or tragic as needed: Her tiniest gestures seem epic; her minutest shifts of vocal tone ring out grandly.” However Lavin’s exceptional performance in The Lyons is but one of many.
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Playwright Nicky Silver and Director Mark Brokaw (credit: Jemal Countess/Getty Images)
The show opened off-Broadway at The Vineyard Theatre and, after a sold-out, twice-extended run, moved to the Cort Theatre. The story mostly takes place in a hospital room as husband/father, Ben Lyons, is dying of cancer. Each of the family members is adrift in some way at this watershed moment in their lives. The laugh-out-loud production has elements of a traditional family story, with a Nicky Silver twist.
Playwright Nicky Silver is an Off-Broadway veteran of numerous productions, including Pterodactyls and Raised in Captivity. And though The Lyons was nominated for a Drama Desk Award and an Outer Critics Circle Award, it marks his Broadway debut. Silver is quick to share the credit for the show’s success. When asked what excites him about the cast that brings his work to life, his reply was one actors dream of. “I am so lucky, I could watch them all day every day. Six geniuses. Period.”
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“The Lyons” Opening Night at the Vineyard Theatre (credit: Jemal Countess/Getty Images)
Aside from Lavin, the show includes stage veterans Dick Latessa (Ben Lyons), Michael Esper (Curtis Lyons), Kate Jennings Grant (Lisa Lyons), Brenda Pressley (A Nurse) and Gregory Wooddall (Brian). Their characters “…find a new road to happiness, the familiar, familial road having failed them.” Asked what he hopes audiences take away, Silver responded, “I hope they laughed a good deal and find, ultimately that they were very moved. If you mean, in terms of a ‘message,'” he continued, “I’d have to say that one ought to never give up on happiness.”
From my seat, The Lyons seemed to get across that message. The play uses humor to deal with difficult topics: family relations, death, illness, homosexuality, sobriety and loneliness. People laughed and felt and understood. Silver, along with Lavin and the rest of the cast, should be applauded for that.
The Lyons is playing at the Cort Theatre in NYC (138 West 48th Street, between 6th & 7th Avenue).
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