Nicky Silver’s acidic comedy, “The Lyons,” opened off-Broadway to great reviews last fall at the Vineyard Theatre; and, with the original cast in tact, has recently shifted venues to Broadway where the two-act play now resides at the Cort Theatre. The play involves interactions between members of a, you guessed it, dysfunctional Jewish family in which the father (Dick Latessa as Ben Lyons) is lying in his hospital bed awake and aware but dying of cancer. He is at “rest” in the hospital room surrounded by his immediate family – the matriarch, Rita Lyons (played with near-strategic condescension and brutal “motherly” honesty by Linda Lavin), and, at various intervals, by an alcoholic, battered daughter (Lisa Lyons/Kate Jennings Grant), and a homosexual, borderline sociopathic son (Curtis Lyons/Michael Esper) who, we learn, tends to envision, only imagine, his romantic partners rather than actually (physically) have them in fact.
The dialogue and laughs are fast, pointed, and, well, regularly furious in the first act, and Ms. Lavin’s lines throughout the evening are wittily wicked, pure savagery. But, the second act (in two scenes) seemed, at least to this audience member, to be at once removed from, and somewhat disconnected to, the play’s larger theme(s) and, really, played rather peripherally to the major subject(s) at hand. Indeed, the two second-act scenes appear so much an extension of the action that they, together, might provide subject matter for a second play, or, at least, a sequel. After a while, too, the bitter (at times menacing) dialogue and exaggerated gestures wear on you, the voices drone on, as each Lyons family member’s hang-ups, character “disabilities,” deeply rooted flaws pile up one atop another until you find yourself just waiting for all of this mishegas to end. I won’t give that – the end – away; suffice it to say, the end is a bit unbelievable and hyperbolic, but, typical for Rita Lyons, rather victoriously unpleasant.
Overall, “The Lyons” is, likely, the very best full-length, family-based, everything-and-the-kitchen-sink harangue on Broadway since “August: Osage”!
Dinner prior to the theater proved considerably more pleasant – and very successful. We had switched our dining spot from a Mediterranean bistro on 9th Avenue to a location closer to the Cort Theater, between 6th and 7th Avenue, selecting the pan-Asian touristy spot, Ruby Foo’s, at Broadway and 49th. (We had eaten here on one prior occasion and found it tolerable, but with some culinary merit.) This time, with a new head chef in the kitchen, or so we were advised, we found the food piquant, complex, and interesting … and the service friendly, patient, and calm for so large (300-seat) and so tourist-central an establishment.
The four of us had a few appetizers, two mains, and three small bowls of brown and (sticky) white rice. Our appetizers included simple but tasty steamed shrimp dumplings (at $9.50), from the dim sum menu, and their especially enticing version of “Asian chicken lettuce wraps,” accompanied by hoisin sauce and “crisp lettuce cups” ($11.). The main (fairly large) plates were equally on target, equally intriguing: a spicy beef udon with seared filet mignon in a fabulous tobandjan sauce (at $24.); and double pan fried noodles with shrimp & scallops in a tangy chili-garlic sauce ($22.50).
We swilled it all down with both Hoegaarden (Belgian) draft beer and a fruity Japanese wine. Much to choose from at Ruby Foo’s, and in many categories, at this Times Square pan-Asian palace ... and recommended highly if you happen to be in the immediate area!
We moved on to the theater, stopping for strong-ish lattes and Italian pastries (including a very fresh, creamy, "white/white" cannolo) in preparation for an approaching, over-the-top theatrical experience, which, ultimately, the play – “The Lyons” – turned out to be!