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Aunt Dan and Lemon by Wallace Shawn
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's review
Jun 11, 2012

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bookshelves: drama
Read in June, 2012

AUNT DAN AND LEMON. (1985). Wallace Shawn. ***.
My knowledge of Mr. Shawn was limited to his movie career. I know that he had roles in at least two Woody Allen films – “Annie Hall,” and “Radio Days” – and wrote and starred in “My Dinner With Andre.” In all of these he was excellent. Now I discover that he was also a playwright. I found this a difficult play to read. It is a play about ideas and takes a philosophical approaches to our reasoning power as humans. It is about the education of a girl nicknamed Lemon. Her teacher is, primarily, a friend of her parents to whom she refers as Aunt Dan. At the end of the play, Lemon concludes with a defense of fascism. It is a thin defense, however, and I had to go back and re-read portions of the play to see what Shawn was actually trying to achieve. “Lemon is sick and weak, confined to her room and an eccentric diet of fruit drinks. However persuasive Aunt Dan was in instructing her young, idolizing charge, Lemon cannot teach the audience as she was taught, and in that sense the play is guardedly optimistic. The line of education ends with Lemon and goes no further, although the logic immorality remains painful and treatening. Lemon is a dire and amoral character, the intelligent person for whom selfishness becomes the highest reality of life. The pain she encounters through fiction means more than the suffering of real people. Her memories in the play are the stories of violent tales being told, not of personal experience.” Shawn added a preface/introduction to the play, which, I presume, was printed in the program in order to help the playgoer understand his intent. It seems to me that if you have to do this, you’d do just as well to go back and re-write the play so that your point(s) came across better.

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