Saturday, October 15, 2011

Lemon Sky ***

The Keen Company has revived this 1970 memory play by Lanford Wilson, a playwright whose role in American theater seemed assured, but whose work has lately fallen into neglect. While not one of Wilson's best efforts, it still makes an intermittently strong impression. It is an autobiographical work about the six months that the 17-year-old Wilson (here called Alan and played by the excellent Keith Nobbs) spent in southern California with his estranged father and his second family. The household consists of Douglas (a fine Kevin Kilner), his second wife Ronnie (a terrific Kellie Overbey), their two young sons Jerry (Logan Riley Bruner) and Jack (Zachary Mackiewicz), and two teenaged foster children, sexpot Carol (Alyssa May Gold) and studious but plain Penny (Annie Tedesco). The play makes heavy use of narration, repetition, addressing the audience, commenting on the action or lack thereof, and prefiguring future events, techniques that must have seemed more daring in 1970. The play sags a bit in the middle, but the simmering tensions explode in a final scene that grabs your attention and doesn't let go. Jonathan Silverman's directed. Bill Clarke's recreation of a 1950's California house made the best of the Clurman Theater's awkwardly wide but shallow stage and Jennifer Paer's costumes perfectly evoked the time and place.

Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes including intermission.

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