Cancer Drama

Rita Lyons and Vivian Bearing: Not so different after all!

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.

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The Best of 2011!

Lay on the eggnog! Toss the confetti! It’s time for the 2011 superlatives! Huzzah! This year’s winners of the internationally renowned theater-words awards are listed below, roughly in the order they opened.

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BEST CASE FOR THE SURVIVAL OF THE WELL-MADE PLAY:

Good People, MTC/Broadway

Here’s how it goes: There’s an interesting lead character who wants something that she has to fight hard to get. A shocking setup, I know, but we Aristotelians in the audience at David Lindsay-Abaire’s latest were giddy at the elegance and payoff of this perfectly crafted and relevant class drama.

BEST REMINDER THAT TONY KUSHNER ROCKS AND TOTALLY DOESN’T CARE ABOUT NON-COMMERCIAL TITLES:

The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures, the Public Theater

Mr. Angels in America’s four-hour behemoth stood proudly on its own, complicated terms: Spectacularly performed and directed, it simultaneously made you uncomfortable and blissed out—not exactly an easy combination.

[Read more…]

I Want to “Live Here”

Zoe Kazan’s new play at MTC is called “We Live Here,” but I’m calling it “I Want to Live There”—John Lee Beatty’s set is so beautifully, fully realized that I left City Center with a severe case of real estate envy. His take on an upper middle-class New England colonial is the oh-so-right mix of elegance and hominess. Plus, all the levels that presumably help sightlines make it a dynamic, up and down space.

Do you do apartments, Mr. Beatty?

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