By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
No actor in a five-state area says "Go fuck yourself!" better than Dallas actor Terry Vandivort says it in Nicky Silver's The Lyons, now playing at Uptown Players at Kalita Humphreys Theater. Vandivort plays Ben Lyons, an angry old cuss who knows he's dying. From his Manhattan hospital bed, he issues, with great flourish, the eff-yourself orders to his wife (a marvelously imperious Georgia Clinton), his daughter (Kristen McCullough) and his son (Austin Tindle, a vocal soundalike for Neil Patrick Harris).
We're on Ben's side. The Lyons are an awful bunch. Mom's a narcissist who, against Ben's wishes, is redecorating their living room because "the chairs are the color of disgust." Sis is a lapsed alcoholic. Little bro is a shame-spiraling homosexual who creates imaginary boyfriends and stalks his good-looking neighbor (Christopher Deaton).
Directed by Bruce R. Coleman, the production makes a mediocre play about terrible people into a rollicking dark comedy, all thanks to top-drawer performances by a cast that really clicks. (LisaAnne Haram plays the sixth character, a nurse who takes no guff from even the worst-behaved patients. She's Nurse Ratched one minute, Mary Poppins the next.)
Silver's writing leans toward soapy sop, especially the appropriation of Tennessee Williams' Gentleman Caller scene from The Glass Menagerie. In The Lyons, it's the gay son, Curtis, on a fake date with his hunky neighbor who spoils any dreams of romance with the mention of a girlfriend. Instead of letting young Lyons down gently, the hunk pounds him senseless, but there is something Laura Wingfield-y in Curtis' readiness to be victimized.
Nobody gets off easy in The Lyons. After Daddy dies, Mama becomes the merry widow, leaving her whiny children in the lurch. You'll enjoy laughing at The Lyons. And leaving them behind.