Bruka Theatre Puts Fun in Dysfunctional with The Lyons
Reeling from the tremendous success of Stage Beauty, Bruka once again raises the caliber of theater in the Reno community with its latest dark comedy, The Lyons. Like stains on a couch, life is comprised of a series of moments; some small, some big, some unforeseen, and some outside of our control. What is within our control is how we react to these moments and how we choose to let them define our lives. Do we remain stuck, replaying the tragedies of our existence? Or, do we persevere, forging new moments, and buy a new couch?
These question and more are addressed in Nicky Silver’s hilarious yet poignant play. Meet the Lyons: the patriarch, Ben, who is dying of cancer; his passive aggressive wife, Rita, his alcoholic daughter, Lisa, and his gay son – whom he despises – Curtis. They all visit him Ben in the hospital to pay their respects and say their final goodbyes. What should be a touching family reunion turns ugly as secrets are revealed, repressed feelings are brought to life, and relationships crumble as each character ponders life without Ben Lyons. Ben struggles with his legacy while his wife Rita, trapped in a loveless marriage for years, relishes the opportunity of a clean slate and a new life. Curtis and Lisa tackle their own demons as characters realizes the fabricated facades of their lives are a sham and must deal with harsh, cold reality of their choices.
Director La Ronda Etheridge perfectly cast the production with stellar actors whose onstage chemistry is a product of beauty and magic. Etheridge demonstrates her great directorial eye with careful attention to detail. The cast displayed a level of authenticity in their performances rarely seen—having audiences believe the four leads have suffered through years of family drama and trauma together.
Tom Plunkett channels the spirit of George Carlin as Ben Lyon, embodying his brass demeanor and spot-on comedic timing. Kathy Welch portrays matriarch Rita with such commitment and sincerity as she systematically tears down each member of the family it is a thing of beauty to watch. I was both terrified of her and yet wanted to be her best friend at the same time. Also, I can die a happy man now that I have heard Kathy Welch say “cocksucker”. Sandra Neace delivers some of the best comedy I have seen in a while as Lisa Lyon. With a sideways glance or a quick change of tone, Neace understands humor and knows how to infuse comedy into the tiniest of moments. At the same time, she is able to cast an emotional silence upon the audience as she delivers a heart-wrenching monologue. To round out the leads, Bryce Keil takes on the complex and dynamic role of Curtis. I’ll admit it; I’m a fangirl of Keil; and, his depiction of Curtis, a lonely and resentful gay man looking for connection, renewed my love for him. It’s extremely difficult to play the part of a gay man and do so in a way that is authentic, non-stereotypical, and true, and Keil tapped into something truly wonderful with his performance. Kristina Harris as disgruntled but caring nurse Janet compliments the other performers. I found Robert Grant’s choices as real estate agent Brian confusing. He had great moments, but thought he got lost within the character and his motivations and intentions were unclear at times. As I mentioned previously, it is difficult to play a gay man and not rely heavily on pre-established stereotypes. Grant’s mannerisms could have been a bit more dynamic; most of the time he stood with a limp wrist and a hand on his hip creating the image of a gay teapot that I didn’t necessarily care for.
I give The Lyons, currently playing at Bruka Theatre, 4.5 ENCORES out of 5. Prepare for a night of theater filled to the brim with dark humor, punctuated with moments of vulnerability, and seeping with a sadness that redefines dysfunction in our daily lives. The Lyons runs through March 22nd; tickets are available online at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/475293 or by calling the Bruka box office at (775) 323-3221.
Posted on March 5, 2014, in Bruka, Ceezon Critiques, Hot Men, Plays/Theater, Reno Area Theatre Alliance (RATA), Sex and tagged Bruka, Dark Comedy, Drama, Nicky Silver, The Lyons. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.