Review: Lemon Sky
Keen Company revives Lanford Wilson's father-son drama.
Wed Sep 28 2011
Photograph: Richard Termine
Time Out Ratings :<strong>Rating: </strong>3/5
Certainly there are worse ways to bid farewell to the recently departed Lanford Wilson than Keen Company's revival of Lemon Sky. The production is gentle and simple; it reminds us of Wilson's deft way with images—he describes burned brush standing "like ashes on a cigarette"—and the fun he taught us all to have with theatrical convention. But while there are less worthy send-offs, there are better ways to stage this play. Jonathan Silverstein directs Wilson's 1970 coming-of-age drama with the sort of deference that flattens, and so the work, which itself makes a fetish of narrative diffidence, seems as empty and two-dimensional as the Mojave sky.
Wilson's alter ego is Alan (Keith Nobbs), a student in the late '50s venturing West to join father, Douglas (blustering Kevin Kilner), who abandoned him years before. Douglas has a new family—wife, Ronnie (a confident Kellie Overbey), children and foster daughters—all of whom attach to Alan in ways destined to be torn loose. Alan acts as chief narrator, apologizing for his errors, allowing the others to comment; and characters bounce between living the past and remembering it. You can see why Silverstein would cast Nobbs; he handles his audience asides with a beagleish coyness. But if there's something in Lemon Sky besides de rigueur fourth-wall tricks, then it must be in Alan's out-of-time presence in his own past. It's unfair and unkind to ask so much of one actor—but stranded by a-family-with-a-secret fare, we're lost in a desert. Never mind Nobbs's refreshing sweetness; we need more than a single cup of water to drink.