The recently lauded Whistler in the Dark Theatre follows their winning TALES OF OVID with Wallace Shawn’s AUNT DAN AND LEMON. AD&L is Shawn’s languid play about a little girl (nicknamed Lemon) and her fascinating aunt, Danielle. Shawn is most famous for MY DINNER WITH ANDRE, a meandering film featuring Shawn’s sprawling conversations about life and art with Andre Gregory.
AD&L is ripe with, as Dan herself says, “conversations no way related to anything else”…except, I might add, to decadence, which is what excites and captivates the eleven year old (Jen O’Connor). Shawn speculates that cruelty and violence are mother’s milk to the human race. The play is bookended with Lemon’s thoughts on Nazi ideology and implementation in WWII – but what comes between is scattershot and endlessly repetitive (“in other words…” the characters say over and over).
The performances in Bridget Kathleen O’Leary’s production are well drawn (except for one actress who swallows her lines so rapidly you cannot make out the dialogue). One actor, Alejandro Simoes, lights up the stage as the charming roué, Raimondo. You don’t mind at all when he repeats his suave come-on about the remarkable orchestra. Pity is, he’s only briefly on stage, the first time as seducer and the second, as victim of a nefarious seductress.
O’Leary cleverly runs subliminal music (mostly Kurt Weill interrupted by a jarring Bacharach!) throughout the play. P.J. Strachman’s evocative lighting works on several levels as well, especially when mother (Melissa Baroni) and Dan (Meg Taintor) sit on the grass in dappled sunshine and lock horns over Henry Kissinger’s morality. Both suggest the undercurrents flowing beneath the action. If only AD&L wasn’t so bloody long.