Bear in mind, Nicky Silver's "The Lyons" is a comedy. But Mom, Dad, Junior and Sis, your quintessential nuclear family, it ain't. Dad's dying of cancer and barely tolerates his two children, who despise their parents and aren't too fond of each other either. Everyone is lost and one will soon be dead.
Ben Lyons (Will Marchetti), the patriarch, is a foul-mouthed wreck of a man, who is said to be wasting away but it seems more likely his wife Rita (Ellen Ratner)'s prattling will put him away first. Ratner's Rita is perfect. At first she appears to be socially inept, but we come to realize she is just plain nasty, ecstatic to soon be rid of Ben so she can remodel the living room. There is no visible hope for their helpless alcoholic daughter Lisa (Jessica Bates) nor her gay and pathetic brother Curtis (Nicholas Pelczar).
Still, Act One is quite funny: we have hope. In Act Two those hopes are quashed, although we do see each family member make a limping stride or two towards what optimists might call recovery. (Of course none of their choices, such as Lisa's falling in love with a terminally ill lymphoma patient, has a shred of possibility of success.) Nurse Jeanette (Edris Cooper-Anifowoshe) tries to inject a little humanity into the situation and eventually does reach Curtis; Joe Estlack plays Brian, who takes over the beginning of Act Two with a particularly desperate story of his own.
Disfunction does lead to humor. "The Lyons" is funny while you're seeing it but you really don't want to spend much time thinking about it afterwards.
RATINGS ☼ ☼ ☼
The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "The Lyons" Three Stars, two for the brilliant performance of Ellen Ratner and the third for director Barbara Dameshek, because she drips a little sardonic humor into every show she touches. This is Nicky Silver's first show that made it all the way to Broadway. It's funny and disturbing, probably in that order.
The Aurora Theatre
2081 Addison Street, Berkeley
EXTENDED Through March 8