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New Milford's 'The Lyons' roars (4.5 out of 5 stars)

By Joanne Rochman, Republican-American


Family dynamics can be fraught with anger especially during a crisis.

Nicky Silver, who wrote "The Lyons," takes a close look at a family gathered around the dying patriarch's bedside. Don't expect sentimental professions in this blunt, uproarious comedy. Instead, expect to witness the results of a family that has been completely disconnected emotionally for many years.

Brutal and hurtful revelations are awful and shocking, but the playwright has turned horrible into hilarity as each character reveals their own egotistical little worlds. The family name "Lyons" isn't an accident. These characters tear each other to shreds.

When the play opens, Ben is on his deathbed in a sterile hospital setting, which is appropriate because nothing pleasant or beautiful will take place here.

Rita, Ben's wife, is by her husband's bedside, but she is flipping through decorator magazines and talking non-stop about what she wants to do with the living room as soon as Ben dies. This angers Ben, who says he will put in his will that he wants the living room to stay exactly as it is.

If Rita's heartlessness weren't so outrageously funny, she would be a very cruel character. However, Ben, who has a wickedly foul tongue goes neck and neck with her. One can only imagine that their 40-year marriage had to be a constant battle.

When daughter Lisa arrives on the scene, the matriarch immediately invites confrontation. First, Lisa can't believe she wasn't told her father was sick, let alone dying. Then, mom asks if Lisa's son has been tested for mental retardation. Lisa is now infuriated but Mom keeps pushing all the buttons to get her daughter absolutely nuts. Watching this mother/daughter go at it in this scene is as outrageous as it is hilarious.

Things go from bad to worse when Curtis, Ben's son, arrives. Curtis is gay, and Ben can't stand his son's homosexuality. When Curtis tells his father that he forgives him for this, Ben goes crazy and thinks it is ridiculous for his son to forgive the father.

Seesawing between funny and sad, one of the saddest moments in the play is when Ben's children try to recall a fond memory of their life with father. There are none. Yet, one cannot minimize the comedy created here. The audience laughs out loud and often is quite stunned to hear the language and subject matter presented so frankly in this comedy. The play opened Off Broadway in 2011 moved to Broadway in 2012.

Matt Austin directs the New Milford production seamlessly from one quick scene to the next all the way through the play. He has gathered a fine cast to portray these misfit characters. Bill Hughes as Ben delivers a totally engrossing character. Just as soon as one wishes someone would speak kindly of the father, Hughes lashes out one of Ben's hurtful insults, putting the character in his proper place.

Jody Bayer is terrific as wife and mother Rita. She is excruciatingly funny in her hurtful treatment of every member of her family. She plays the Jewish mother who continually puts down her children.

Joseph Russo as Curtis steps into the mind of his character and presents a lonely man looking for someone to connect to. Courtney Brooke Lauria as Lisa is sassy sad. Jim Hipp as the actor/real estate agent does a fine job, as does Beth Young, who plays the nurse.

Bill Hughes and Matt Austin designed the rotating set, which moves from hospital to apartment complex. Tom Libonate designed the sound and Richard Pettibone and Scott Wyshynski designed the lighting. Overall, this is definitely a winter blues picker-upper.

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