Alcoholism, stalking, domestic violence, abandonment — no one unearths the humor in emotional instability quite like Nicky Silver. And his new play, The Lyons — now through Oct. 30 at Off Broadway’s Vineyard Theatre — is a fitting addition to his delightfully deranged oeuvre.
The Lyons focuses on a family brought together, in the geographic sense only, for the imminent death of profanity-spewing patriarch Ben (Dick Latessa). The play is perhaps more mellow and less manic than you’d expect from the playwright who previously tackled such subjects as kidnapping (Fit to Be Tied) and prostitution (The Maiden’s Prayer). But things are definitely off-kilter: Ben’s pet name for wife Rita (a sublime Linda Lavin, landing and never overplaying laughs), is ”motherf—er”; he calls their gay son, Curtis (Michael Esper), ”what’s-his-name”; and Rita suspects their grandson is ”just a little retarded” — a theory she shares with his mom, Lisa (Kate Jennings Grant).
Silver’s comic sensibility is as blissfully absurd as ever, particularly when he’s bouncing haphazardly from one unrelated ridiculous subject to another — like, for instance, Rita’s obsession: redecorating. ”I look at the sofa. I know it was cream when we bought it, but now it’s just some washed-out shade of dashed hopes. The chairs are the color of disgust. And the carpet is matted down with resignation.” (Now, tell me you can’t envision Rita’s living room of broken dreams!) A few scenes drag — the revelation of Curtis’ particular psychosis could be condensed — and director Mark Brokaw could kick up the post-intermission pace a notch. Then again, if there weren’t a few frayed edges, it wouldn?t be a Nicky Silver comedy. B+
(Tickets: VineyardTheatre.org or 212-353-0303)