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Review: THE LEMON GIRLS OR ART FOR THE ARTLESS at La MaMa

By Talking Band: March 11-27, 2022

Review: THE LEMON GIRLS OR ART FOR THE ARTLESS at La MaMa
Lizzie Olesker, Jack Wetherall, Patrena Murray, Louise Smith
(Photo: Andrew Bisdale)

These ladies don't lunch; they launch, lurch, pop and topple. Meet Lorca, Topo, Nivea and Pinny: the more-sweet-than-tart troupe in LEMON GIRLS OR ART FOR THE ARTLESS. The comedic performance-art-within-a-play follows a group of New York City senior (70ish) girlfriends, all alumnae of Lemon Elementary. As they find their footing in a youth-paced world, they dance outside their comfort zones. Artistically in it together even if they're not always sure what "it" is, the Lemon Girls show us that age is just a number: "5-6-7-8!"

As I settled into my Sunday matinee seat, a woman behind me lamented to her friend, "I called him 'honey.' I guess we're not supposed to say that anymore." The comment forecast the intergenerational tension brewing at Solo, the Lemon Girls' favorite coffee shop. Lately, the younger crowd has been taking over by lining up down the block for the hot trend in caffeinated beverages, the pencil latte. "Why do they all love to line up? What's so fun about lining up?" asks Lorca (Ellen Maddow, the show's OBIE and Drama Desk Award-winning playwright and composer).

Further souring The Lemon Girls' mood is the discovery of a tall, handsome, interloper hogging their sacred table. They lurk; who's the tall-and-handsome jerk? He introduces himself as Sid Spritz (Jack Wetherall), a Fashion Institute librarian and performance artist who is desperately looking to book talent for his upcoming community creative performance. Spritz beams like a smiley-faced emoji personified, despite his dire financial straits.

Review: THE LEMON GIRLS OR ART FOR THE ARTLESS at La MaMa
Lizzie Olesker, Ellen Maddow, Jack Wetherall,
Louise Smith, Patrena Murray
(Photo: Andrew Bisdale)

Much talking and balking ensues, but (spoiler alert) from here the plot doesn't so much thicken as it flows toward what we see coming all along: a big-hearted finale starring you-know-who. The audience ate up all the jokes, which steer clear of any -isms that could have tarnished this otherwise observationally humorous show.

The talented ensemble includes Nivea (Patrena Murray), an essayist and urban historian who quickly finds her groove even after admitting "I said there was a plan. There is no plan;" Topo (Lizzie Olesker), an even-keeled social worker who keeps the peace; Pinny (Louise Smith), a retired civil servant who excels at online trading, and Lorca, who is prone to free-styling bitter little songs that she has been composing "ever since she was a bitter little girl." Both within and outside the group hovers Fran (Tina Shepard), a wise muse with a mysterious presence.

Four-time Obie winner Paul Zimet directs this premiere by Talking Band, which showcases a range of fluid choreography by Sean Donovan. The creative team includes Anna Kiraly (whose set and video design toggles us seamlessly between the bustling coffee shop and the sticky-floored community center), Kiki Smith (her vivid costumes reflect the Girls' creative metamorphoses), Mary Ellen Stebbins (lights), Tyler Kieffer (sound design), and Kristin Rose Kelly (production stage manager).

As the show's journey of creative camaraderie moves between the coffee shop and the recreation center (with a couple of detours for a dream ballet and the afterlife), none of the Lemon Girls leave behind any personal baggage. This bring-it-on attitude centers their humor in a nostalgia-is-now liminal space.

Performances of LEMON GIRLS OR ART FOR THE ARTLESS will take place March 11-27, 2022 at La MaMa's Downstairs Theater, located at 66 E 4th Street. The performance schedule is Thursday - Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 4 p.m. General admission tickets are $25 in advance and $30 day of show. Tickets for students or seniors are $20 in advance and $25 day of show The first 10 tickets to every performance is $10 each. Tickets are available at www.lamama.org.

La MaMa requires proof of complete COVID-19 vaccination and proof of a booster dose (for those eligible in accordance with CDC guidelines) by the date of attendance for admittance to the theater. Masks are required at all times; N95 or KN95 masks are strongly suggested. Audience members are encouraged to get tested before attending. Please leave your pencil lattes at home.



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From This Author - Derek McCracken