“The Lyons” on Broadway

Using my amazing Gold Club service, I got free tickets to “The Lyons” just before the run closed.

I’m glad I saw it, but I’m also glad I didn’t pay for the tickets.

I didn’t know much about the show, other than that its female lead Linda Lavin received a Tony nomination for her performance. And that it apparently wasn’t selling well, because I kept getting offers for free tickets through the Gold Club.

The story revolves around an older married couple and their two adult children. The father is dying of cancer, the daughter is looking for love and battling addiction, and the son is trying to find his place in the family and the world at large.

The mother, who is billed as the star of the show, is mostly seen reacting to the rest of her family. That’s not a dig — her delivery and comedic timing are phenomenal, and she really was the highlight of the show. Unfortunately, her witty one-liners and exasperation wasn’t enough to tie together a fragmented script.

The first act of the show takes place in a hospital room as the father prepares to die and the children struggle to deal with the last-minute revelation. Act One was good — it was funny, it showed vulnerability, it introduced and then expanded upon each of the four family members. But Act Two systematically unravelled the coherence of the first half.

Most of Act Two inexplicably focuses on the son, and his efforts to make a true human connection. It was interesting, but seemed random — why are we focused on his struggle for so much of Act Two, rather than his equally-if-not-more interesting sister. Or, given the top billing that Lavin receives, why not more on her?

It’s not that the scenes focused on the son were bad, exactly… I just didn’t understand the choice made by the playwright. Of all four family members, that character seemed the least integral to the story. My inner cynic wonders if the author fashioned the character after himself and narcissistically overemphasized his role, as some sort of therapy. (I can explain, but want to preserve some surprise for readers who want to see a production of it elsewhere.)

Ultimately my problem with The Lyons is that I can’t figure out what the audience is supposed to take from it. it seems to be pushing the importance of finding people — whether family or relationships — with who you can form a true connection, and making it work in spite of adversity. But if that’s the message, I would’ve shaped the storyline differently to make that more clear, with a more balanced view of the relationships (or lack thereof) each of the family members has.

And if that’s not the point of the story, then I really just don’t know what message the author is trying to convey. There were just too many seemingly random insertions into the story and the dialogue for it to make sense to me.

All in all, the individual performances were good, and I laughed out loud quite a few times, particularly in the excellent first act. I wish Act Two had received an overhaul in workshop, as it could’ve really cinched an excellent play with a compelling and meaningful story, if only it had been given the opportunity.

With free tickets, I can say it was absolutely worth the time and (overall) an enjoyable experience. But I would’ve felt much differently if I had paid for the tickets, and I feel for those audience members who did.

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