November 16, 2006

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Good theater
Merrimack Repertory brings Wallace Shawn’s Aunt Dan and Lemon to life
By Heidi Masek hmasek@hippopress.com

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.


11/9/2006 Preview roundup

11/2/2006 Access to the ancients
10/26/2006 Aida on a Nashua stage
10/19/2006 Children of a Lesser God brilliantly played
10/12/2006 A true love triangle
10/05/2006 Curtain Calls
09/28/2006 Bringing people back to life
09/21/2006 Getting judged
09/14/2006 Long strange journey
09/07/2006 Curtain Calls
08/31/2006 Curtain Calls
08/24/2006 Putting kids in charge
08/17/2006 Curtain Calls
08/10/2006 All theater, all summer
08/03/2006 A Jesus musical, reworked
07/27/2006 A match made in Maine
07/20/2006 Variations on a theme
07/13/2006 I Hate Hamlet
07/06/2006 Serious theater
06/29/2006 L.A. in Peterborough
06/22/2006 Da Vinci to Rube Goldberg
06/15/2006 Peter Bridges remembered
06/08/2006 From Hairspray to monkeys
06/01/2006 Special Theatrics
05/25/2006 Live Brit-com
05/18/2006 Evil stepsisters earn the yuks
05/11/2006 A message to mom
05/04/2006 Meet the cast
04/27/2006 'I hope i get it'
04/20/2006 Find yourself in Yonkers
04/13/2006 Nashua rocks The Wiz
04/06/2006 Nashua rocks The Wiz
03/30/2006 Cabaret is Mnchester bound
03/23/2006 A 42nd Street detour
03/16/2006 Actor-director wants your ideas
02/23/2006 Yellow Taxi's Theater Festival opens March 1
02/16/2006 Herding CATS
02/09/2006 An actors' studio
02/02/2006 A thing about love
01/26/2006 Spring theater season warming up
01/19/2006 Gearing up for the big night
01/12/2006 This Phantom is not a menace
01/05/2006 Jim Kelly, sci-fi writer and alternate historian
10th anniversary at Capitol Center
10 Ways To Survive The Audition
A Chorus Line
A Figaro Worth Cheering
A 'Living Newspaper' on stage
A tale of two wives
A Tribute To Music
Actorsingers Deliver On Superstar
Beauty and the Beast
Bedford Off-Broadway Gets Spooky
Being The Beatles, 1964 The Tribute
Bringing NYC to Wilton
Creating the venue from antiques
Crimes Of The Heart
Curtain to rise on Dana Center
Dana Center Takes Center Stage
Ensemble elevates Palace’s Godspell
From stage to the silver screen
Great play, too bad it’s over
Greater Tuna
Humble Boy
It’s cabaret, hear it sing, joke, tease
It's Child's Play
Jesus Christ Superstar
Kids Tackle Edgar Allan Poe
Local boy hits the big time, doesn’t lose his head
Lowell theater opens with a winner of a satire
Madco welcomes Boston actor-director
Meet John Sefel, Director
Meet Suzanne Delle, Yellow Taxi’s driver
Music Man to run three weekends
New Thalian Players
Palace announces 2005-06 season
Peterborough Players’ Solidarity is solid gold
Plaid
Plaid (II)
Playing with man’s best friend
Proud of the Peacock
Racy, crazy blast at the Palace
Reviving His Passion
Robert Dionne, The man behind the Majestic
Rosemary Dann
Secrets Every Smart Traveler Should Know
Short-Attention Span Theater
Side Show
Sideshow slips sideways
Spending The Summer On Stage
Stages of learning
Steel Magnolias
Suessical: The Musical
Theater Of The Imagination
Theater Kids Without A School
Theater in the park draws big
The Drawer Boy
The Festival
The Five best shows of 2005
The Prisoner Of Second Avenue
The Russian/American Kids Circus
The Senator Wore Pantyhose
The Tony Awards, they're grrrrreat
The Warmth Of The Cold
Three nights, three shows at the Palace
Tosca

Under the Caribbean with the little mermaid

Wake up to ‘night Mother