By Sheri Berger
Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Theatrix, April 7, 2022 7:30PM
I always love the productions at Theatrix. This student-run theatre is a creative space that vibrates with energy, dreams, and talent. This Season, their talented leaders, Philip Crawford as Artistic Director, and Hannah Mason as Managing Director, and their team created an eclectic array of shows, and Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons is a great selection to complete it. In addition, this play was Ms. Mason’s directorial debut before she graduates and whisks herself back to Texas to work on her MFA.
Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons is a newer play written by Sam Steiner, a playwright and screenwriter from the UK who published it in 2015. The script challenges the observer to consider how we communicate, as the main characters of this two-person show, Bernadette (played by Claire McClannan) and Oliver (played by Shay Jowers), are suddenly living in a world where a “Quietude Law” is passed and each person can speak only 140 words a day. This new law in the UK challenges their ability to bond as a couple and live everyday life together.
My family, co-workers, and friends will tell you that 140 words is just the first hour or two in the day for me. Depending on the traffic and array of bad drivers and rock trucks, I might even have used them up muttering out loud to myself before I arrive at work. Though the concepts in this play are much more drastic, it even got me thinking about the 280-character limit on Twitter and the disconnection and communication pitfalls of social media as our world becomes a vast array of communication challenges. The characters in this play find themselves saving – or not saving – words for each other at the end of each day.
The scenes in this play sometimes go back and forward in time. You will see memories of the time before the censorship and the ease with which they related, and also the emotion between them, even when speaking to each other was new to them and a little awkward as they got to know each other. It is a stark contrast to the calculated and sometimes repressed emotions you will see from them after the new law goes into effect. You will also see some pretty heavy topics which can only be addressed with what few words they have left, if any. Much like our current-day situations with finding time and energy for our relationships, and challenge of being mindfully present in them, the actors had an additional hardship of figuring out different ways to communicate when their words ran out.
The ramifications of speaking more than 140 words a day is never realized, and the observer is left wondering if they are simply unable to talk, or if it’s more Orwellian in nature and they are arrested and reprogrammed. But ultimately, the consequences of disobeying this new law are not the point of the play, as there is much more going on. Besides communication, the power of words, and free-speech, this play addresses other timely topics such as censorship, activism, and fascism. It challenges us to think about the superfluous words that we say, and encourages us to instead choose concise words that are powerful and matter.
Bernadette is a driven divorce lawyer and Oliver is a musician and social justice warrior. At times, their two worlds collide in the debate over the Quietude Law, as Bernadette is more willing to adapt to it, and Oliver is actively protesting it in the streets. Both of these actors, Claire McClannan and Shay Jowers, not only had a heavy-lift with remembering the dialogue and order of the scenes, but they also had great chemistry and were a very believable and loving couple, and I found myself rooting for them. They both gave confident performances and were a true pleasure to watch.
The scenic design by Savanna Greger, and the pace of the play are almost characters in and of themselves. The scenic design is a simple rectangular canopy with two platforms on the inside that are to be imagined as different pieces of furniture or places within the context of the scene. The pace of the play is a resetting “beep” between scenes. In addition, the scenes that take place after the dystopian law took effect always begin with Bernadette and Oliver announcing the number of words they have left to use for the day. Beyond the edges of the canopy are the grass and tombstones of the pet cemetery – where Bernadette and Oliver met before the new law – and is often where you will see past scenes begin or play out.
This play also includes comedic elements that break up the serious tones of this play. Particularly, Bernadette (McClannan) neurotically compares the way she related and fell in love in her previous relationships to a four-sided cheese grater, and Oliver (Jowers), who had to deliver to the audience a more serious and principled character, showed a sweet, yet intense side of their character.
This is a thought-provoking and cleverly written play about the power of words and how they not only affect our relationships, but how they help us shape our society and government. At the end of this play, after I had seen it and understood the rhythm of the play, I found myself wanting to watch it again in order to catch anything I missed. Ultimately, this play leaves a person more aware of the importance of accurately saying the words they intend to say to the people around them, and for that I found it to be a thought-provoking and moving experience.
I had considered attempting to give my review in 140 words, but ultimately I agree with Oliver when they say “I can’t know you in 140.” You can’t know how clever and thought-provoking this play is with any amount of words until you see it, so I would simply recommend that you not miss it!
Stage management was done by Olivia Schmitz and Syrin Weeks, with Abigail Green handling Properties. Sound Design was handled by Savanna Greger, Instrumentation by Liam Romano, Payton Schaefer was the Sound Board Operator and John Hutchinson was the Light Board Operator.
A special thank you to Jamie Bullins, Theatrix Faculty Advisor, and Hannah Mason, Director and Managing Director of Theatrix, as well as their Management Team, Council Members, and Advisors for leading such a great team of students.
If you go: The play is just one weekend! April 7-10th in the Lab Theatre, which is located on the third floor of the Temple Building at 12th and R Streets in Lincoln. Tickets are $7 General Admission, and $5 for Students.
Sheri Berger is a business minion, dog momma, arts groupie, and co-host of the Platte River Bard Podcast with her husband, Chris Berger.
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