Family: Can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em…

by Julie Haverkate

in TCG Books

Post image for Family: Can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em…

Last month, TCG published The Lyons, a deliciously savage new comedy by Nicky Silver. In the play, Ben Lyon is dying, and his wife Rita and their grown children gather together to say goodbye, but in doing so, they learn that despite being a family, each of them is utterly isolated. Afraid of closeness and afraid of solitude, Ben’s death is ultimately the catalyst that propels them into that foreign territory, human connection. It’s an intimate and frightening examination of how we cope with loneliness and disappointment, and one that earned playwright Nicky Silver a Drama Desk Award nomination for Outstanding Play on Broadway following a critically acclaimed Off-Broadway run at the Vineyard Theatre.

Nicky will be at Drama Book Shop in NYC on Tuesday, February 26 with Vineyard Theatre’s co-artistic director, Sarah Stern. For more info, check out the DBS’s website:

In the meantime, the playwright was kind enough to share a few thoughts on his newly published play.

Julie Haverkate: You’ve talked a lot about your personal experience premiering on Broadway for the first time with The Lyons (in the intro to the book, in a New York Times article). Did audience reactions in the Vineyard and the Cort differ, and how so? Do you feel the play changed in any other ways when it transferred?

Nicky Silver: Well, this is a pretty complicated question, because a play is a living thing which changes, to some degree, from night to night. My first response, my flippant response is: “Yes, the laughs were much louder.” But there’s more. I made one substantial change to the play between the Vineyard and Broadway. (I cut a short scene of direct address at the top of ACT II.) This allowed the audience to experience ACT II quite differently: They were in the same kind of play they’d been in before the intermission. So they laughed harder and longer — until things took a very dark turn. So you see, I can’t say if the response is due to the demographic or the change in the play. I will say this, from the first preview at the Vineyard to the closing matinee at the Cort, audiences embraced The Lyons with amazing enthusiasm, laughing explosively, and became one, locked in hushed silence, when the play shifted

Julie Haverkate: The cover of The Lyons is a photo of your parents. Can you talk a little about how you came to the decision to use that particular photo.

Nicky Silver: [Book designer] Chip Kidd is a genius. He’d done other covers for me, and I was thrilled to have him do this one. That said, we searched for a while for the “right image.” The pendulum of the play swings so wildly from comedy to darkness that it was, at first, elusive. I remembered the photograph and suggested it. It seemed to conjure Ben and Rita at the beginning to me — before the poison seeped in. And Chip had the great wisdom to crop it in such away as to skew that very “standard” photo into something dangerous and mysterious. It was, I guess, happenstance that her wedding ring has a place of honor, right in the center of the cover. I love that. It’s clearly a symbol of love — but it also seems to me to be something of a shackle. They are prisoners of each other, trapped forever, smiling at us from the distant past.

Photo by Eric Pargac

Nicky Silver‘s plays include seven which have premiered at Vineyard Theatre: Pterodactyls (Oppenheimer Award, Kesselring Award, Drama Desk nomination, Outer Critics Circle nomination), Raised in Captivity (Drama Desk nomination, Outer Critics Circle nomination), The Eros Trilogy, The Maiden’s Prayer, My Marriage to Ernest Borgnine (Vineyard Lab Production) , The Altruists, Beautiful Child and The Agony and the Agony (Vineyard Lab Production). Other notable plays include Three Changes (Playwrights Horizons), The Food Chain (Outer Critics Circle nomination), Fat Men in Skirts, Fit to Be Tied, Free Will and Wanton Lust (Helen Hayes Award), the new book for the Broadway revival of the Rodgers and Hart musical, The Boys from Syracuse, and more.

Julie Haverkate is Marketing Associate at Theatre Communications Group. Previously, she has worked at Meadow Brook Theatre (Rochester, MI), as well as in the literary offices of Electric Pear Productions and the Summer Play Festival in NYC. Julie has lectured and presented at conferences internationally, and her book, PARADE Diverges, was published by VDM. In addition to dramaturging every now and again, she also writes the blog Critical Confabulations and is a proud alumna of Florida State University (M.A. Theatre Studies ’08).