Over the past 25 seasons Diane Kondrat has performed in dozens of roles at the Phoenix Theatre. Now she can be seen for the final time in the Hoosier state playing the handpicked role of Rita Lyons, the matriarch of a dysfunctional New York family in the Frank and Katrina Basile Theatre.
This part is perfect for Kondrat, offering her a chance to showcase both her comedic timing and dramatic prowess. The Lyons provides a tightly-wound look at the unique intricacies of one family’s dynamics. It’s a black comedy providing wildly funny lines, but each clever barb cuts another character to the core.
Rita is a piece of work. In the opening scene she discusses her design ideas for a new living room with her husband. Quickly you realize she’s asking her husband what he thinks of these new ideas with the full knowledge that he’ll be dead soon and won’t be around to enjoy it. There is no love loss between the two. Though the couple has been married for 40 years they treat each other with utter contempt.
Charles Goad is Ben, Rita’s long-suffering husband. At the end of his life he has decided to let go of any veneer of politeness and let everyone know just what he thinks of them. That death bed honesty is both amusing and brutal. Goad is excellent in the role, conveying a wide range of emotions as he readies himself for the end.
Their daughter Lisa (Angela Plank) is a single mother trying to keep her alcoholism at bay. Their other child, Curtis (Scot Greenwell), is in his own father’s words, “creepy.” The pair grew up watching their miserable parents undermine each other and as adults they have no idea how to find a healthy relationship. They’re both lost and alone in their own way; convinced they don’t deserve happiness.
Each of the characters in the cast walks a delicate line between neurosis and vulnerability. They’re trying to find a way to stave off their loneliness, settling for any crumb of human connection they can find. They are each hilarious and heartbreaking in equal measures. Their cruelty towards each other knows no bounds and because of that they have each created a prison of loneliness for themselves.
The first act is particularly well-crafted. It’s an unending stream of personal attacks and each relationship has a minefield of past wrongs and grudges. Blood might be a tenuous bond, but bitterness will hold fast in any storm. It’s like a beautifully orchestrated train wreck; you know it’s going to end badly, but you can’t look away.
Don't Miss the Show
For more information about the Phoenix Theatre, visit www.phoenixtheatre.org. The theater is located at 749 N. Park Ave., Indianapolis, just off Massachusetts Ave.
Performances: The show runs until March 31 and offers four performances a week. Thursdays begin at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturdays begin at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. There are adult themes and adult language used in the show.
Tickets: To purchase tickets, call (317) 635-PLAY (7529). Prices range from $18 to $28. The play has one intermission and includes adult language.
Photos Courtesy of Zach Rosing