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THEATER REVIEW : Squeezing Most From ‘Lemon’

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

In an age when people often look down their noses at the “well-made play,” Wallace Shawn’s “Aunt Dan and Lemon” always looks like the bed in which the nefarious Raimondo (Guillermo J. Flores) is murdered. It is an unmade play, with parts that never have and never will fit together dramaturgically, especially at its great and intermission-less length.

Director Christian Kiley provides every shading and nuance he can to make it work, and he does give it a moody edge and a fluid sense of momentary import that, at least, gives it some form.

Lemon (Misty Reams) is a young woman who can’t eat solid food. This caused problems with her parents (Wendi D. West, Tom Loeprich). But she perked up when they introduced her to the lesbian Aunt Dan (Katie Zerga), the object of Lemon’s girlish crush for her first 11 years. Aunt Dan breathlessly fills the little girl in on her past life, some of it pretty sordid, but maintains Lemon’s affection.

Shawn doesn’t fill in too much detail about the emotional import of the relationship between Lemon and Aunt Dan. He veers off into one of Aunt Dan’s escapades, which involves small-time hustlers, including the silken Raimondo and his murder at the hands of Aunt Dan’s current female obsession. There is also a distressingly long section in which Aunt Dan explains to Lemon’s mother why everything Henry Kissinger did was right.

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Kiley’s staging in the round works beautifully, is visually interesting and has a cinematic feel. The one blocking problem he hasn’t solved is getting the dead Raimondo offstage. The actor can only get up, pick up the bedding and walk off, the only flaw in Kiley’s concept. Under David Miller’s chiaroscuro lighting design, Kiley makes everything look like one of those soft-focus films the BBC is noted for.

Reams is magical as Lemon and even makes her gigantic, wandering and mostly pointless monologues work. There is a light that surrounds her that is more than acting.

Zerga’s Aunt Dan hasn’t found herself. The actress gives Dan a strident, jagged edge, both vocally and emotionally, that is stereotypically lesbian, without much inner warmth and no flights of the intelligence that is her biggest attraction for Lemon.

Flores paints a fine portrait of the true sleaze that is Raimondo, and Dannine Consoli as Aunt Dan’s prey is chillingly coldblooded. West and Loeprich double with ease as characters in the two flashbacks to Aunt Dan’s earlier adventures, and Scott A. Bauer also doubles well as other guys involved in shady doings.

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* “Aunt Dan and Lemon,” Arena Theatre, Cal State Fullerton Performing Arts Center, State College Boulevard at Nutwood Avenue, Fullerton. Thursday and Friday, 8 p.m.; Saturday, 2:30 and 8 p.m.; Sunday, 5 p.m. Ends Sunday. $5 to $7. (714) 773-3371. Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

“Aunt Dan and Lemon”

Misty Reams: Lemon

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Katie Zerga: Aunt Dan

Guillermo J. Flores: Raimondo

Dannine Consoli: Mindy

Scott A. Bauer: Andy/Marty

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Wendi D. West: June/Mother/Flora

Tom Loeprich: Jasper/Father/Freddie

A Cal State Fullerton department of theater and dance production of Wallace Shawn’s drama. Directed by Christian Kiley. Scenic design: Kevin Clowes. Costume/makeup/hair design: Abel Zeballos. Sound design: John R. Fisher. Stage manager: Julia Musekamp.


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