The Lyons and Wit, recently acclaimed “plays of sickness,” might appear to have no more than a cancer ward in common—the former, after all, is mostly giggles, while the latter is mostly tears. But look closer at each play’s grand dame, as played, respectively, by Linda Lavin and Cynthia Nixon—both Tony-nominated—and some striking similarities emerge:
- Both women love literature. For Vivian Bearing (Wit), poet John Donne is the font of wisdom. Rita Lyons (The Lyons) is equally enamored of what appears to be “Architectural Digest,” gleefully gleaming renovation ideas from its esteemed pages.
- Both women know how to face adversity with strength. Vivian accepts an aggressive chemo regime with steely resolve; Rita, cheering up her terminally-ill husband, gives him the perspective he needs: “Death’s not so bad, not when you consider the opposite.”
- Both women finally learn what love is, Vivian from a caring nurse, Rita from the guy her daughter was sleeping with, a guy with whom she jet-sets to Aruba the day after her husband’s death.
Vivian and Rita—woulda, coulda, shoulda been friends…
Photo of Linda Lavin by Carol Rosegg. Photo of Cynthia Nixon by Joan Marcus.