You’ll notice that Linda Lavin rarely makes eye contact with her costars in The Lyons, Nicky Silver’s chipper burst of charnel-house absurdism, now playing at the Vineyard. This, we come to realize, is an act of mercy: Lavin’s Rita Lyons, matriarch of a clan of Connecticut depressives, is keeping her cockatrice gaze in reserve, lest it slay the anemic souls who huddle within her blast radius. These include her doomed grump of a husband, Ben (Dick Latessa), who’s expiring sourly, of every kind of cancer imaginable, in a hospital bed, and their awful little brood of permanent dependents, the secretly seething Curtis (Michael Esper) and walking abuse-magnet Lisa (Kate Jennings Grant). They’re all too old for the sorts of mistakes they still feel comfortable making, but then, no one ever really grows up in Silver’s grim, upper-middle-class Neverland. Eventually, of course, nearly everyone gets his or her lifeline severed, in a mass third-act euthanasia that may lack the grand cartoon cartharsis of Silver’s nineties hits (Pterodactyls, The Food Chain), but packs no less punch for being so cunningly humane. Silver loves his little monsters, and so we do, too.
The Lyons is at the Vineyard Theatre through October 30.
We Live Here is at City Center Stage I.