Donald Lyons, who left the Wall Street Journal to become the New York Post's chief theatre critic exactly one year ago (Dec. 9, 1998), suffered a stroke last week and is recovering at St. Vincent's Hospital. Post editor Ken Chandler told Playbill On-Line, "I gather everybody's fairly optimistic" about Lyons' recovery process, though it's apparently too soon for a firm prognosis.
Deputy arts editor Brad Hamilton, who has visited Lyons at St. Vincent's, told Playbill On-Line (Dec. 9), "He's subdued and not quite himself, you can tell he's sick, but he's fairly together. We joked around and commented on [shows] coming up he was hoping to see."
Continued Hamilton, "[Lyons] has some aphasia, which is a common post stroke symptom. He'll point to something and call it something else. But there really isn't much of that. The hospital wants to move him from where he is into cognitive rehab, but they're still waiting for a bed to open... Physically there are no problems at all. No paralysis or motor problems, so he's in good spirits."
Hamilton noted that Lyons knew of the recent shake-up in the Post arts section (editor John Podhoretz left two weeks ago but will be writing a political column starting in January) but also knows his chair is being "kept warm" for his return. Until then, the Post will be fanning out its Broadway reviewing to various staffers, with former chief critic (and current Sunday "senior" scribe and daily dance critic) Clive Barnes and Sunday Features Editor Michael Lewittes among those taking up a bit of the slack.
"We've got plenty of people to pinch hit in the short term," editor Chandler told Playbill On-Line. "If this turns into a long-term convalescence, we might narrow down the list." A Fordham University graduate, Lyons, 61, has taught English literature at Harvard, NYU and Rutgers, according to the Post.
When Lyons left his five-year stint at Wall Street Journal to take the Post job, Journal editor Sokolov said of his departing critic, "We loved Donald's work. His intelligence and wit. I've known him since we were both students in the classics department at Harvard... and I look forward to reading him."