Moments and Lemons, written by Fred Giacinto and directed by Thom Fogarty, is a truly meaningful work of theater. The performance is made from the bare bones elements of performance -- two actors, four chairs, some basic lighting tricks, a superb story to convey, and a beautiful utilization of a theater space -- but the result is so much greater than just the sum of its parts. Tony King plays Casper, a man who is bent on telling the audience his life story. He comes on with some hesitation and is egged on by Jessica Day, who portrays Pepper. Casper is willing to carry on with his tale so long as she agrees to enact every part in the play he is constructing, beside his own. She agrees, and we in the audience are lucky she does.
The forward moving action is told in and out of time; Casper tells an anecdote and then jumps years ahead in time for his next detail, then steps out of the story completely to comment on the events with Pepper, who often also stands outside of the narrative frame. Casper's story is a difficult one: he speaks of his dog's death, his father's paralyzing and ultimately fatal accident, his tumultuous affairs, and his all-too-well-remembered stint in prison. It is this episode, more than any other, that he suggests had the power to define who he was and who he would become. Yet, his trying and at times overpowering circumstances are not without the glimmers that only interpersonal connections can provide. At all of his lowest moments, someone is there to comfort him, to protect him, even to save him. This forces him to remember that life is not a one-way, dead-end road. Casper must contend with the fact that no matter how bad things get, with some effort and a lot of determination, a person can transcend his or her past.
Jessica Day plays all of the supporting roles with grace, strength, and an immense depth in her character development. She carries herself in each role with poise, using both her voice and her body to create distinct, profound individual personages. Tony King plays off of her with bravado; he is at turns angry, bitter, sweet, melancholy, charming, and confused. These two performers make the world of this play come alive for the viewer with the assistance of little more than their selves and the poignant text.
This play is remarkably well-written. The storytelling is both believable dialogue and compelling poetry. The narrative arc builds beautifully to an honest and powerful moment of catharsis. A motif of yellow items -- for example: some mustard, lemon cupcakes, and sliver of yellow ribbon -- provides a wonderful thread to follow throughout the work and it is woven in with perfect consistency.
The lighting design by Alexander Bartenieff adds to the overall production's structure. The cues are extremely well-timed and executed and they work nicely at accentuating important moments and creating stark contrasts for the transitions. One particular instance, in which Casper finds himself in solitary confinement, is pulled off totally realistically with nothing more than a corner and an intense spotlight effect.
Moments and Lemons is one of the most worthwhile theater experiences imaginable. The performances are incredibly strong and the direction is satisfyingly simple. This simplicity facilitates the telling of a story that is difficult to confront but necessary to hear. It reminds its viewers of how dark life can be, but it never leaves them in that dark place for too long. It tackles important issues, but always leaves a sliver of hope that things can and do improve, no matter how bad things get. Life is made up of various moments -- some good and some total lemons -- but all worth remembering and sharing.