LEMONS LEMONS LEMONS LEMONS LEMONS
Reviewed by Lovell Estell III
Hudson Guild Theatre
Through February 11
Sam Steiner’s wildly eccentric two-hander follows the relationship of Bernadette (Brynn Alexander) and Oliver (Philip Asta) as they struggle to exist in an Orwellian world on steroids, where the government limits the number of words citizens can use daily. It’s an engaging premise with abundant potential, yet the playwright fails to explore it with commanding artfulness or coherency.
The action unfolds in a pet cemetery where the couple initially meet, and in their apartment (Leslie K. Gray’s simple yet puzzling design that has various sections identified by names stamped on the floor). It then moves through a flurry of non-chronological scenes that are sometimes confusing and inconsequential, affording glimpses of the characters’ lives both before and after the infamous Hush Law —limiting verbal communication to 140 words per capita each day —is enacted. Aside from the more mundane daily activities of their lives, we learn of tensions in their relationship caused by Oliver’s attachment to an old flame, and his persistent insecurities about Bernadette’s success as a lawyer.
The play’s humorous moments emerge as Oliver and Bernadette wrestle with controlling their word output after the law is passed. They frequently blurt out the number of words used, and devise shrewd ways to communicate non-verbally — debating the virtues of contractions and even employing mime. The ending is puzzling and not at all satisfying. Given the depth of the subject matter more imagination and substance in the writing would have made the play much better. Jen Bloom directs.
Hudson Guild Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd, Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through February 11. www.2centstheatre.com. Or (323) 960-4420. Running time: ninety minutes with no intermission.