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Limonade Tous Les Jours
In its New York premiere at the Cell Theatre Limonade Tous Les Jours is a sharp contrast from his other work, but it bends towards one of Mee's favorite themes: the difference between women and men. Presented by The New Voice Project and Joie de Vivre Theatrale, this whimsical play, first staged in Louisville, Kentucky, in 2002, still has enough zest to grab you by the heartstrings.
Set in Paris, the story revolves around two adults who took wrong turns in their past marriages and are now recovering from painful divorces. Ya Ya is a young French chanteuse and Andrew is an American in his 50s looking for a fresh beginning. They meet at a small café, and leisurely stroll through the city together. Resolved not to fall in love, they unwittingly do before the sun sets behind the Eiffel Tower.
We watch Ya Ya's and Andrew's romance charmingly unfold in real-time. But we also view some wonderful video projections of their meandering through Paris as if it was the Forest of Arden. Because the two have not totally healed from their failed marriages, they are skittish, and sense the dangers of love as well. The moe laconic Andrew ultimately loosens his tongue and wit, giving us a litany of love that goes beyond the hackneyed Hallmark clichés. He has a virtually foolproof argument to persuade Ya Ya to let down her emotional defenses and love him : "You cannot eradicate the human heart itself."
Limonade. . . is neatly infused with snatches of French cabaret love songs, including Ya Ya's rendition of Edith Piaf's classic "Hymn to Love." Cris Frisco's sumptuous piano playing heightens the romantic mood and atmosphere. To leaven the evening, the Waiter (Anton Briones) turns downright hammish, showing off his well-modulated pipes and slick dance movements. Ya Ya's and Andrew's final pas de deux is utterly enchanting.
For all that's right about Limonade Tous Les Jours it could use more rigorous and clear-cut action. In fact, there are stretches of conversation in the café that are just too talky. While Ya Ya and Andrew's chemistry heats up s and their simulated lovemaking raises the emotional temperature, this play is much tamer when compared to other Mee works on the mysteries of love (Big Love and True Love).
As Ya Ya, Eleanor Handley is a whirlwind of graceful energy. Her poise never flags, and her French accent and broken English are quite convincing. Austin Pendleton, in the role of Andrew, is a master of understatement. Anton Briones brings impeccable timing to the role of the Waiter.
Diana Basmajian has directed Limonade Tous Les Jours with an appropriately evanescent feel. Set designer Hilary Noxon has spruced up the tiny stage to evoke a fanciful dreamscape; costume designer Charles Schoonmaker deserves much credit for garnering the chic outfits for the character Ya Ya; and a special nod to choreographer Erin Porvaznika for his inventive dances for all three actors.
Mee has created bolder love stories tethered to the Greek models, but when it comes to affirming the human spirit, this simple love story soars.
Editor's Note: Mee's play has also been produced in Los Angeles (different director and actors) where Laura Hitchcock reviewed it. To read that review go here.