AISLE SAY San Francisco


by Nicky Silver
Presented by Aurora Theatre Company
Directed by Barbara Damashek
Aurora Theatre
2081 Addison St., Berkeley, CA / (510) 843-4822

Reviewed by Judy Richter

Long-held resentments along with secrets and surprises trickle upward and sometimes spew forth in Nicky Silver's "The Lyons," presented by Aurora Theatre Company.

The catalyst for this play about a dysfunctional family is the pending death of the father, Ben Lyon (Will Marchetti). Although he and his wife, Rita (Ellen Ratner), have known for several months that his cancer will be fatal, she doesn't inform their two adult children until death could come within a few days.

Naturally both Lisa (Jessica Bates) and Curtis (Nicholas Pelczar) are shocked at the news and angry that they haven't been told sooner. As the family gathers in Ben's hospital room, known information emerges first: Curtis is gay, and Lisa, a recently divorced mom raising two young sons, is a recovering alcoholic.

There's much more than that, however, as playwright Silver reveals in the family's often scathing, often hilarious conversations. One thing is clear: There hasn't been much love to go around. However, there's lots of bitterness, and everyone is scared in some way, mostly of being alone.

The play's other two characters are a nurse (Edris Cooper-Anifowoshe) and a real estate agent, Brian (Joe Estlack). Brian appears in only one scene, when he shows a vacant New York City studio apartment to Curtis, who's supposedly interested in buying it. Nevertheless, Brian plays a pivotal role in the play's outcome.

Director Barbara Damashek paces this two-act, two-hour work well, allowing time for the laughs and carefully pacing speeches that leave the audience silent but listening intently. One such scene comes as Ratner's Rita tells about the time many years ago when she bought a gun, presumably to kill Ben.

In fact, Rita carries some of the play's heaviest loads, especially in one of the final scenes, when she acts on her intention to snare whatever happiness she can.

Marchetti is marvelously grumpy as the dying Ben, while Bates and Pelczar embody all of the anxieties felt by his two offspring.

Except for the apartment scene, the rest of the action takes place in a hospital room (set by Eric Sinkkonen with lighting by Kurt Landisman and sound by Chris Houston). Costumes are by Callie Floor with fight direction by Dave Maier.

This Bay Area premiere production is a highly entertaining, thought-provoking evening of theater.

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