Lemonade: A Play Of World Domination
nytheatre.com review by Nathaniel Kressen
August 13, 2010
Lemonade: A Play of World Domination is an absurdist comedy about how society implodes on itself when capitalism goes unchecked. Two competing business empires unite to overtake a third through the not-so-far-fetched notion—in the world of the play—of commodifying the sun. News reports and sidewalk scenes expose how their power play upsets the general public. Meanwhile an underground "terrorist" group called L.O.V.E. attempts to motivate the masses against the upper class.
While Lemonade engages me in concept, the show falls short in execution. The establishing scenes are staged so rapidly that it is difficult to get a clear view of the futuristic world in which the play is set. The repeated cutaways to news reports and commercials—filmed live backstage and projected onto a scrim—disrupt the plot movement and occur too frequently to benefit the play at large. Perhaps most detrimental to the playwright's intent, the production design is intentionally shabby. Props and choice costume pieces appear to be made from cardboard and marker. Costumes do not clearly distinguish between the rich and the poor (sorely needed after the hurried start to the play). And lastly, locations are nonspecific, yet at the same time made important to the action of the play.
More a shortcoming of the direction than of the design, characters often engage one another across the stage, then moments later establish that they are in two separate locations. When we discover that an actor has been doubling roles for the better part of an hour, it comes as a shock (note: not a plot twist). Onstage it reads that he is one person traveling between adjacent rooms, not two identical people serving as butlers in separate households. The director's intent is clear: he means to milk the absurdism of the play by having the same actor deliver the same news to two different bosses, one after the other. The quick entrance/exit concept is a familiar one for the genre, but it demands utmost specificity to work well. Here, the details are half-realized.
To their credit, the actors perform energetically, however they seem to be directed to behave as caricatures in a void. They rarely seem to listen to one another, instead focusing on archetypal mannerisms (a cigar for the rich man, a temper tantrum for the rich woman, etc.). The characters hastily make decisions but their perspectives never change. The upper class imposes mandates that apply to some but not others, then shift without explanation. It is never explained why there is no regulation, or why society accepts these rules without protest. When the long-awaited uprising occurs, only a negotiation session takes place onstage, however the characters selected to deal on behalf of the public are illogical choices. The outcome is so quickly decided and ill-conceived that it proves difficult to stay engaged.
I left the theatre questioning what the production's intention might have been. Regardless if Lemonade is meant to be a political satire, or a stand-alone farce, more careful attention to detail would have clarified the show's objective and engaged its audience more fully.