‘The Lyons’ at Round House Theatre by David Friscic

Like a pride of carnivorous lions, the Lyons family is aggressively on the prowl for laughs (underneath the pain) In playwright Nicky Silver’s The Lyons now playing at Bethesda’s Round House Theatre. From the opening scene where we see the Jewish matriarch, Rita Lyons (Naomi Jacobson), prattling incessantly about re-designing her living room while her husband Ben (John Lescault) lies dying of cancer—to the last scene where Rita informs her dysfunctional family that she is fed up and striking out on her own, Director John Vreeke keeps the edgy, caustic – yet humorous – tone afloat.

Naomi Jacobson, John Lescault, Kimberly Gilbert, and Marcus Kyd.  Photo by Danisha Crosby.
Naomi Jacobson, John Lescault, Kimberly Gilbert, and Marcus Kyd. Photo by Danisha Crosby.

Forget Ma Barker, Medea, and Mommie Dearest (Joan Crawford), in the “domineering, mean mother” contest, the venom-spewing matriarch Rita Lyons wins the contest hands-down. Naomi Jacobson understands this character’s ferocious will and vanity very well.. As she barks out orders and rages about her family’s dysfunctions and addictions, her every gesture shows that she is in complete control in this family of strong wills and thwarted affections. Jacobson exudes supreme confidence as she strides across the stage.

John Lescault’s dying husband is superbly played as he alternately rages and roars against the life he has been forced to live with his virago of a wife. Lescault adds a very realistic tone of belligerence to the proceedings. The scene where he demands the attention he is due is a standout of the play.

Hard to categorize, Silver’s play never got the long run it deserved either on or Off-Broadway a couple years ago. Though the laughs keep coming in this savage comedy, there is great pain and anguish underneath the lines. I was never really quite prepared for the frequent shifts in tone, and there are some slow patches to still iron out. Trapped in their own isolated worlds of illusion and will, the characters speak as if they have been freed to say whatever pops into their heads and the lonely son, Curtis (Marcus Kyd) and ex-alcoholic daughter Lisa (Kimberly Gilbert) attempt to inject their scenes with spontaneity and intrigue. As the homosexual son, Kyd is wonderful and moving with a strong physical stage presence and is particularly effective in the second-act scene as he searches for a new apartment. As the realtor involved, actor Brandon McCoy hits all the right notes.

The subject of toxic families is nothing new but Silver keeps it fresh by keeping the audience off-balance with the audience never knowing what to expect next. Kimberly Gilbert – so marvelous in Round House’s The Beauty Queen of Leenane – utilizes this element of surprise and uniqueness inherent in Silver’s writing with a very physically busy performance that is replete with frenetic posturing and attitudinizing. Her attempt is only partially successful as there is too much overt telegraphing of emotions. More successful and, indeed, hilarious is the performance of Gabriela Fernandez-Coffey as the grimly determined nurse. Fernandez-Coffey possesses a dead-pan sense of humor with a sense of droll comic timing.

Naomi Jacobson and John Lescault. Photo by Danisha Crosby.
Naomi Jacobson and John Lescault. Photo by Danisha Crosby.

In what is becoming a Round House tradition, Scenic Design is a standout. Designer Misha Kachman has designed a perfectly appropriate hospital bedroom and apartment for the revolving set. Very clean lines and vantage points abound in Kachman’s work. Lighting Designer Colin K. Bills does a bang-up job of lighting the proceedings and Costume Designer Rosemary Pardee parades the perfect attire for this cast of urban characters. Matthew M. Nielson’s Sound Design efforts are particularly interesting – especially his utilization of strains of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” to disarm the audience and increase the unsettling effect of the play.

Producing Artistic Director Ryan Rilette is to be commended once again for re-invigorating the Round House Theatre with such a fine array of provocative new fare.

Do not miss the madness of The Lyons!

Running time: One hour and 45 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission.


The Lyons plays though December 22, 2013 at Round House Theatre Bethesda – 4545 East-West Highway, in Bethesda, MD. For tickets call the box office (240) 644-1100, or purchase them online.

Previous articleSpooky Action Theater Awarded a $10,000 Matching Grant! Help Them Match It! by Roberta Alves
Next article‘A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum’ at Shakespeare Theatre Company by Anne Tsang
David Friscic
David has always had a passionate interest in the arts from acting in professional dinner theatre and community theatre to reviewing film and local theatre in college to making numerous treks to New York City to indulge his interest in live theatre. An enthusiastic interest in writing has shown itself in a BA in English/Education and an MA in English Literature. Taken together, these two interests have culminated in the logical conclusion of writing for an arts blog. David moved up and down the East Coast due to his father's job at General Electric and this has helped him to perceive the world in a very open way. After his schooling, David taught in Catholic school systems for awhile and, then, spent three years in the seminary with two years at Catholic University studying Theology and one year in a practicuum working at a church in New York State. David currently works at the National Science Foundation as a Technical Information Specialist for the Office of Polar Programs and has had the great opportunity to go to Antarctica twice and Greenland once in support of the research community. He enjoys living in Bethesda and has taken courses at the Writer's Center. David enjoys swimming, traveling, reading, and working on committees at his condo. His major interest, however, is the arts and all it encompasses---from symphony, to film, to museum treks to live theatre. He counts having lunch with Lillian Gish and meeting Lily Tomlin, Geraldine Page, Maureen Stapleton, Liza Minnelli and Sandy Dennis as some of the more exciting encounters of his life.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here