I was able to attend a performance of Our Mother’s Brief Affair, by Richard Greenberg, last Friday night starring the hilarious Linda Lavin. About a hypochondriac older woman (Anna, played by Lavin) in the hospital, her children Abby (Kate Arrington) and Seth (Greg Keller) come to her side knowing fully that this will not be her last time in the hospital (”it’s become her pied-a-terre,” jokes her son about the hospital). 

Anna admits to Abby that she had an affair when he was a teenager and her lover was an infamous American who had committed treason. Abby and Seth start to investigate her past to see if she’s telling the truth or not.

I’ve seen Lavin previously in Collected Stories and The Lyons and she’s always. the. best. I realized this time around that she basically plays the same role over and over – crazy, overbearing mother. I also realized that Lavin’s portrayal is becoming more and more like my paternal grandmother. A batshit crazy, narcissist who never should’ve had kids. 

In addition to Lavin, I really enjoyed Greg Keller’s performance. I can’t pinpoint why but I really felt for his character. Arrington was fine, as was John Procaccino as both their late father and Anna’s lover.

I walked away from this feeling the same way that I had after Big Fish. They’re both memory pieces. Is this a mind blowing play? Nah. Is it entertaining? For sure. 

My Top 13 Theatre Moments (or Shows!) of 2012

I was going through my theatre-related posts of this year and I couldn’t pick just 10. Since this is my blog and I make the rules, I decided to do 13. 

1. Bring It On: I had my doubts and reservations about this musical, and maybe I’m a little biased after working on it for a few months, but I loved this show. It was visually stunning, fun, and not totally void of meaning. It had a good meaning overall: Life goes on after high school. I love this show, I’m sad it closed yesterday, and I will definitely miss it.

2. Merrily We Roll Along @ Encores: I went to the final performance and it was my first time having seen it – though I’d heard the music before. The cast was fantastic, as was the material. The atmosphere was also electric. Everyone was so excited to be there.

3. The Other Josh Cohen: This was just a gem of a show. I’m so glad I got to see it.

4. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? revival: I had reservations about this too, having seen the last revival with Kathleen Turner, but upon being offered a free ticket, who was I to turn it down? It ended up being pretty incredible. It was probably one of the best things to open on Broadway this fall.

5. Harvey @ Studio 54: A supposed allegory for homosexuality in the mid-20th century, Jim Parsons killed his roll and this show. Loved it.

6. The Bad and the Better (by The Amoralists): I love The Amoralists. This show was a complex story with many layers and a huge cast. It was pretty epic. I don’t know how they afforded to do it, but they definitely did.

7. James Corden in One Man, Two Guv’nors: I loved this play and I probably loved it because James Corden was so goddamn funny. He absolutely killed onstage. He deserved his TONY Award.

8. The Lyons: I saw this play off-Broadway and loved, and saw it twice more on Broadway. I loved it every single time. Probably because Linda Lavin reminded me of my late Jewish grandmother. And… Michael Esper.

9. Once’s Transfer to Broadway: I think the producers transfered this show well. Not much got lost in the bigger space in the Jacobs Theatre and the spirit of the show remained intact. I loved it off-Broadway and it made me cry (twice) on Broadway. I wasn’t sure whether transferring this show was the right thing to do, but I’m happy that they’re doing well ($1 million+/week).  

10. Tribes: This was an off-Broadway show not to be missed. It deserved every bit of praise it received. I loved it a lot possibly because the lead was hearing-impaired so it made it that much more believable, but who knows. It had a healthy run at The Barrow Group and is now going to LA. 

11. Carrie: A cult classic that only existed in bootleg form before MCC revived it. It was cheesy and the music wasn’t so stellar, and I wished there’d been more blood, but it was an experience to be had and seen. I’m definitely glad I paid $20 to sit in the second row. 

12. Jesus Christ Superstar‘s Resurrection: The revival in 2000 wasn’t so good – except for Tony Vincent, duh – but I loved, loved, loved this one, which transferred from the Stratford Theatre Festival. It felt like a digital update, but the incredible rock score was still the intact and the cast was incredible. I don’t care what anyone says, Josh Young was an incredible Judas. I saw this revival twice and my only regret is that I wished I’d seen it again!

13. Assistance: I was an assistant when I saw this so I definitely related. It was hysterical, vulgar, and exaggerated (though I’m sure it’s not so exaggerated for some people). The ending also wins for ‘most unrelated and random ending ever.’ Also: Michael Esper.

That’s my run-down for 2012. There were a dozen or more shows that I saw and didn’t write about (because I suck sometimes), but I’ll try to be better about writing about EVERYTHING in 2013. What were your top theatre moments in 2012? Happy new year!

Lots of people laugh at the top of the first act of The Lyons. Half of those people are laughing at the ridiculousness of what Linda Lavin says, while the other half are laughing because they had, or have, a Jewish grandmother exactly like Rita Lyons. I knew nothing really had changed about the script, but I was excited to see The Lyons again after it was announced that it was transferring from it’s small stage at the Vineyard in Union Square. 

The Lyons is about absolutely nothing other than a dysfunctional upper-middle class family in which all of the members are dysfunctional in their own unique ways. Is it entertaining? Oh, yes, you will keel over laughing. Linda Lavin and Dick Latessa, as Rita and Ben Lyons, bicker and you can’t help but laugh at the absurdity. Have you ever wanted to hear Dick Latessa yell “motherfucker”? Well, then this is your show. Rita is redesigning their living room while Ben is in a hospital bed dying from cancer when their two equally as dysfunctional grown children show up. 

Brother and sister Lisa Lyons and Curtis Lyons, played respectively by Kate Jennings Grant and Michael Esper, each have their own problems, including alcoholism and compulsive and delusional lying. 

Their lives have all crumbled by the end of the second act, except for Rita’s, and we’re left with Rita proclaiming, “You can wish me bon voyage, or you can go fuck yourselves.” Motherly love at it’s best, indeed. 

Performances are fantastic throughout. Esper is pitiful, humorous, and creepy (though not all at the same time), Grant is a frantic mess, and the two supporting characters the nurse and Brian, the real estate agent, played by Brenda Pressley and Gregory Wooddell are comical and sad respectively. 

It goes without saying that Linda Lavin and Dick Latessa are masters of their crafts and therefore own the stage with ease. The Lyons is hysterical and appalling at the same time, on any sized stage. 

In between marching up Broadway and rallying in Times Square on Saturday, I stopped by the Vineyard Theatre with a friend to see Nicky Silver’s new play, The Lyons.  Of course I was drawn to the show because of Michael Esper, but also because the Vineyard is a solid theatre company that I’ve been a fan of since 2004.  

The Lyons beings in the hospital room of a man (played by the incomparable Dick Latessa) dying from cancer and his wife (hilariously played by Linda Lavin), who is trying to decide how to re-decorate their living room even though, as Lavin says, her husband “won’t be around to see it.”  Eventually their two children (Michael Esper and Kate Jennings Grant) arrive and are told the news that their father is dying.  Secrets are revealed, family members are betrayed, and in a shocking turn of events, Lavin has some pretty big news for her children the week after their father dies.  

Some theatre fans could have their dreams fulfilled after The Lyons when they’ve finally heard Latessa exclaim, “motherfucker!” multiple times. The first rate cast gives solid performances all around.  I always love watching Michael Esper in whatever role he takes on, but he was especially breaking in Act 2 of The Lyons.  I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but The Lyons is definitely worth a viewing.  

The Lyons is playing at the Vineyard Theatre on East 15th Street through November 20th. Click here for more information.

(photo via)