*Aunt Dan and Lemon,* 11/26/20
I saw *Aunt Dan and Lemon* performed by The New Group on 11/26/20 (it was live a few days before). It’s a play by Wallace Shawn, premiered in London and then New York in 1985. I saw it off Broadway in 2004 and have such fond memories of it. I was excited to see that the 2004 cast was doing a reunion reading online.
Wallace Shawn is best known as a short, bald actor. You know him from *The Princess Bride* (“Inconceivable!”) and playing one of the teachers in *Clueless.* He’s also a notable playwright and this is a fascinating play. It’s a memory play about a young woman, Lemon, a recluse with a collection of mysterious and questionable illnesses. She spends the days reading about the Nazis (“Today, of course, the Nazis are considered dunces, because they lost the war, but it has to be said they managed to accomplish a great deal of what they set out to do”) and thinking about a friend of her mother’s, her beloved Aunt Dan, who she idolized as a child.
The original cast had Kathryn Pogson as Lemon (I only know her from playing a small role in *Brazil*) and the great Linda Hunt as Aunt Dan. The 2004 cast starred Lily Taylor as Lemon and Kristen Johnson as Aunt Dan. The play has a disarming mixture of sweet and sour, balanced with a challenging intellect.
The online production was thoughtfully put together, with each of the characters in their homes, often with headphones and/or a microphone, clearly reading from a script. It was directed with the individual screens combined in an engaging way. This play is perfect for the online format because so often it’s just one character talking, and in the case of Lemon, speaking directly to the audience.
The apex of the play is a long monologue by Aunt Dan about Henry Kissinger. She has a thing for Kissinger. Kristen Johnson’s performance of this monologue was one of the most delightful and astonishing things I’ve seen in the theatre, it was riveting and hilarious. It was such a thrill to see her do that monologue again. But Lili Taylor deserves the highest praise for her performance as Lemon. The whole play revolves around her and she was the clear, strong center of it.