Lights go up on a very ordinary hospital room. Rita (Debra Persoff) sits near Ben's bed, leafing through a shelter magazine, planning to redo the 40-year-old living room, where “every stain is a reminder of some disastrous day.”
Ben (Joey Wishnia), dying of cancer, utters yet another string of profanity and protests that he likes the living room as it is.
No sentimental goodbyes hover in this air.
“I realize you're not actually going to be there to enjoy it … just try to be positive,” she tells him, reinforcing the sense that this marriage has meant 40 years of unhappy days for her.
Daughter Lisa (Haley Johnson) arrives and we learn that she solves her issues through alcohol and is looking for a new AA sponsor.
Son Curtis (Preston Lee Britton), a short story writer, appears with a huge — and, given the circumstances, entirely inappropriate — plant and further unpleasantness ensues.
Ben can't accept Curtis' sexual orientation.
Curtis' encounter with realtor/actor Brian (Nathan Bock) in Act II adds tarnish.
Active playwright Nicky Silver has created an unrelentingly dysfunctional Jewish family — which is not a new concept in dramatic literature. Vintage Theatre's production of “The Lyons” is a regional premiere. The play made an appearance on Broadway in 2012.
Tart comments on society have been crafted with more skill elsewhere.
Persoff's Rita has some clever lines that lighten the play on occasion and this veteran actress makes the most of the part, but Silver's script doesn't allow these otherwise skilled actors much room for the comic relief it needs to avoid being one-note — a deeply minor note.
Darcy Kennedy, as a no-nonsense nurse, offers some relief and the play's ending twists into the sunshine — sort of...
Veteran director Bernie Cardell has assembled a strong, capable cast for “The Lyons” and he spoke with us last year about his pleasure in bringing a new play to Denver audiences.
Given a choice, I'll go for a new play almost every time and Vintage is to be complimented of giving it a production, but the reward from a new or unique perspective was missing for this viewer.
If you go:
“The Lyons” plays at Vintage Theatre, 1468 Dayton St., Aurora, through March 9. Performances: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 2:30 p.m. Sundays. Tickets: $26/$21 advance, 303-856-7830, www.vintagetheatre.com.
As a sidenote, Vintage has arranged with Centennial-based Copacabana Grill Catering to serve dinner in the lobby prior to performances for $15, with prior reservation. See the ticketing page on the Vintage website for information.