Dark People, Dark Places In Theater
In 1962, when Edward Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" premièred, George and Martha set the standard for marital mayhem. They caviled and carped and stung and deviled each other in front of guests, and theatergoers were stunned.
Still, this was the way George and Martha entertained each other. Maybe even loved each other. But new standards for marital discord have been set by Nicky Silver's "The Lyons" and Yasmina Reza's "God of Carnage."
Certainly nothing could be much harsher than a woman leafing through a decorating magazine, galling her cancer-doomed mate with the changes she is planning for the living room after he dies.
The Lyons, Rita and Ben, have endured 30 years of wedded misery. And they will fight up to the moment death parts them.
Rita (Jodi Bayer) ignores Ben (Bill Hughes); and Ben, in a hospital bed, medicated, tethered to an intravenous drip and failing, unlooses every obscenity he can summon.
Rita is unmoved. Annoyed, maybe, but unmoved. She gossips on her cell phone, enjoying news of an acquaintance who once borrowed her Limoges service for 12 and never returned it, and just got arrested for shoplifting a lipstick.
"I'm dying, Rita. I'm scared," Ben says.
He should not have wasted his breath.
"Jews don't believe in hell," she responds, adding while leafing the pages of her magazine, "You are just a little man with little sins."
"I love the house and everything in it — except the people," Ben sums up, the other people being his gay son Curtis (Joseph Russo) and his alcoholic daughter Lisa (Courtney Brooke Lauria).
Rita tells Lisa her offspring seems retarded and recalls disposing of Curtis's "Judy Garland at Carnegie Hall" album when he was a kid.
After a while we start to expect a little kaboom on the drums following so many of these assaults, like vaudeville, only meaner.
The plot has some surprises, though, among them Curtis's suicidal encounter with Brian (played by an elegant James Hipp), a real estate agent showing an empty apartment — a sad, empty space except for some trash and a garbage bag with a happy face on it.
The end settles little, except Rita buys her way out of loneliness for a time, while injuring her daughter and dumping her son.
"My children are sad and unforgiving," she says. How could it be otherwise?