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Aunt Dan and Lemon

Torn Space Theater's "Aunt Dan and Lemon" opens Thursday, March 17. (photo by Lukia Costello)

When Torn Space Theater first planned their current production of Wallace Shawn’s 1985 play, Aunt Dan and Lemon, could they have known that Tunisia and Egypt and Libya and Yemen and Bahrain would erupt into revolts against oppression and that the dictatorships that benefit from that oppression would respond with astonishing harshness and that the complicity of our own country in maintaining these repressive regimes, in the name of “stability” and the comfort we enjoy because of our reasonably unfettered access to oil, would be exposed by the mayhem?

They could not.

But the story of how one group oppresses another for the sake of their own comfort is an old story that repeats and repeats throughout history. Aunt Dan and Lemon asks the question, “Does the ubiquity of the story justify it?” And a related question, “Does our own comfort justify the repression of others?” And while the answers to such questions may seem obvious, it is disturbing that such questions should have to be asked in the first place or to consider that this is the way we live.

In the play, Lemon addresses the audience and tells them that she is going to reminisce about one particular summer in her life. Lemon is a recluse who likes to read about the Nazis, whose efficiency and wisdom she rather admires—despite the fact that history has made them out to be so terribly foolish (they lost, after all).

It seems that the formative events in Lemon’s life are not the things she has done, but the things she’s been told, especially by “Aunt Dan,” a woman who admired Henry Kissinger and America’s policy in Vietnam.

“I never yell at waiters,” Aunt Dan tells young Lemon, meaningfully. No matter how angry she is, she never yells. There are other, more powerful people who do that for us, so that we are free to be nice. This philosophy extends to nations. If “they” bother us, we will simply bomb their homes, their farms, their harbors, their towns—and after that, it will be a long long time before North Vietnam dares to bother us again!

There is change and growth over the course of this disturbing journey. But there is little comfort.

Lemon’s ineffectual mother may be right, but she is no match for the charisma of Jean Brodie-like Aunt Dan. And in this world, it seems, being seductive is better than being right.

Aunt Dan and Lemon is directed by David Oliver and stars Kristen Tripp Kelly, Kristin Bentley, Kelly Meg Brennan, David Lundy, Adrienne Lewis, Andrew Kottler, and Greg Howze. It will play through April 9 at the Adam Mickiewicz Dramatic Circle (612 Fillmore Avenue). Call 812-5733 for ticket information and reservations.

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