A family affair

A father-son duo take the stage in Bristol Riverside Theatre’s “Witness for the Prosecution”

By Rita Charleston

For the Times

An old proverb reminds us, “Like father, like son” — meaning, sons tend to do what their fathers did before them.

However, in the case of Witness for the Prosecution, running at Bristol Riverside Theatre, 120 Radcliffe St. in Bristol, through May 28, the proverb takes a slight turn with the father doing what the son has done for years.

In Agatha Christie’s drama, directed by Susan D. Atkinson, Leonard Vole stands accused of murder and his wife can prove his innocence. But when she takes the stand, she shockingly denies his alibi. In true Christie form, audiences can expect twists and turns, emotional outbursts and quirky characters, as Vole’s lawyers untangle the truth in this vintage “whodunit.”

In the show, the professional cast of characters is augmented by a large community ensemble, including Matt Lydon Jr. and his father, Matt Lydon Sr.

Matt Lydon Sr. as the Third Juror in BRT’s “Witness for the Prosecution.” PHOTO: Bristol Riverside Theatre

Lydon Jr. has been involved in some form of theater since he was 9 years old.

“By the time I reached high school, I initially thought actors were silly and I didn’t want to do that anymore,” he recalls. “But wanting to do something different, I went out for a show. I got cast in John Keane’s Moll and decided it was the coolest thing ever, next to playing the part with an Irish accent.”

And even as Lydon Jr. went on to college — first to Drexel and eventually Temple University, where he received his degree in education — the excitement of performing never left him.

Today, Lydon Jr., who resides in Northeast Philadelphia, is an English and drama teacher at Mastbaum High School by day. But by night, he becomes an actor, having appeared in two other BRT community ensemble productions: Inherit the Wind and Enemy of the People. He also does improvisational theater, and worked with ComedySportz for a time.

“In Witness, I am the clerk of courts, so I sit right next to the judge and hand him papers,” says Lydon Jr. “I also talk to the prisoner. It’s great fun.”

And now, Lydon Sr., acknowledging that over the years he’s seen his son in countless productions and is a big fan, is stepping onto the boards himself, although sitting silently in the jury box.

Lydon Sr., a maritime security specialist with no theater experience, thought maybe it was time to have a little theatrical fun of his own. Aside from his son, he’s watched his grandson, Ciaran Barlow, on the stage in several BRT productions, enjoying himself.

“So I thought maybe it was time for me. I am semi-retired, live close to the theater, and have the time now to try something different. I am up on the stage but I have no lines, and once told a friend that the only thing more insignificant would be not to be in the play at all.”

In the future, Lydon Sr. says he may do more plays.

“If I do this one play and if it works out, fine. And if it doesn’t, that’s fine, too. I’m in a position where I can pick and choose what I do. I don’t have to rely on it for money. If I like the piece, which I certainly did this one, I might take another role. Of course, at my age, it would have to be a classic, just like Witness.” ••

For more information, call 215–785–0100 or visit brtstage.org