Merrimack Repertory brings Wallace Shawn’s Aunt Dan and Lemon to life
By Heidi Masek firstname.lastname@example.org
In a time when it’s more than easy to find a way to be entertained, Aunt Dan and Lemon doesn’t stop at that, but asks its audience directly if indeed we are better than the world’s notorious despots. As Aunt Dan says, “These other people use force, so we can sit here in this garden and be incredibly nice. Otherwise, we’d be going around covered with scars and bruises and our hair all torn out, like stray cats.” Lemon, played by Jeanine Serralles, as a sickly young woman addresses the audience as her formative childhood memories come to life on stage. Actors in the small ensemble play several parts. Most of the actors have off-Broadway and regional professional shows to their credit, and some film and TV. Carmen Roman, who brilliantly portrayed Aunt Dan, plays a judge on Law and Order. Serralles embodied Lemon perfectly in her debut with Merrimack Rep.
After seeing the Merrimack Repertory’s version Nov. 9, I recommend seeing it yourself for these reasons:
(1) Wallace Shawn is an excellent writer. Describing his words, although necessary, seems somewhat redundant.
(2) Acting, production, sets and costumes for Aunt Dan and Lemon are impeccable, which means there isn’t some flaw to distract from the content or make you wish you were elsewhere.
(3) It’s less than two hours and there’s no intermission, thanks to well-crafted scripting and production.
(4) It’s engrossing, yet it’s not created only to entertain. Shawn is asking the audience to question how many monstrosities committed against fellow humans they were willing to let slide in the name of their own comfort. And while he’s known as the actor who exclaims “inconceivable!” throughout The Princess Bride, he’s also studied history at Harvard, studied economics and philosophy at Oxford (the university where Aunt Dan is an American professor) and taught English in India on a Fulbright. His dad edited The New Yorker. It’s not as if Shawn had not done some thinking about the moral and political perplexities he brings up in some of his plays.
(5) Although Aunt Dan and Lemon was first produced 21 years ago and debates Kissinger’s decisions 20 years previous to that, it’s plenty relevant now.
(6) MRT Director Melia Bensussen worked at the Public Theatre in New York when Aunt Dan and Lemon premiered there.
(7) You can buy rush tickets before shows for half price Wednesday through Friday, although Merrimack Repertory charges professional ticket prices.
(8) The show runs Wednesday through Sunday nights with weekend matinees, which is convenient.
Aunt Dan and Lemon, by Wallace Shawn, continues through Nov. 19 at Merrimack Repertory Theatre, 50 E. Merrimack St., Lowell, Mass., (978) 454-3926. Tickets cost $32 to $55.