The tone of Ted Lange’s Lemon Meringue Façade is set pretty early on, when the pretty, blonde, eight-plus-months pregnant Linda (Gunna Wilson) denounces her husband to the friends gathered for a baby shower as a "an uncircumcised twit." Well, if that’s the kind of play it’s going to be, then that’s what it’s going to be. Not Wilde, not Coward, not even Neil Simon, but a slick, stupid, cable-ready (with language courtesy Sex and the City) comedy that aims low, is profoundly politically incorrect, achieves little, and doesn’t give a damn about it -- or d-a-m-n, as Annie (Cheryl Lynn Bowers), Linda’s pretty, blonde friend, who can only give vent to strong language by spelling it out, would say.
Annie’s dating an actor, and she’s being pretty mysterious about him to all of her and Linda’s other pretty, blonde friends. Well, the setup is there for Lange’s entrance, but first there’s plenty of "comic" shenanigans. Phyllis, an actress, shows up dressed as Cleopatra, and no one knows who she is -- hahaha. She’s quite a card, telling them how she gave head to Jack Nicholson (name-dropper!) and her director. For all of that she envies Linda and Susan (Carrie Baker, pretty and blonde, what else?) for having kids. Oh.
Linda’s mother (pretty, blonde Melanie Boland) is enjoying Linda’s pregnancy discomfort (payback time!), but Boland at least was funny -- she was the only one who seemed to be doing more than just reading her lines. Not that you can blame everyone else: the play, after all, is what it is. Lange has set up his entrance to alert (or disarm) the audience -- he is announced as someone who plays a bartender on TV. Why not just sing "Love, exciting and new . . ." -- but instead Linda and Susan sing the Shaft theme. Exactly what century are we in?
Author Lange has given actor Lange's character an attitude -- "I’ve had so much smoke blown up my ass I’m shitting nicotine" he says, along with inserting "fuck" into his dialog twice in his first five minutes. Oh, that century. There was occasional humor from occasional acting or directing shtick, but none of it came from the lines. Linda talks about screwing a Rasta on a Jamaican holiday; Annie tells how when she went down on Lange it tasted like chocolate -- and it turned out he put Hershey’s syrup on his penis. Hahaha.
The damage continues. Annie turns into a soul chick -- hoop earrings, black boots, grooving to Sly and the Family Stone (how long has this play been lying around?). Linda’s baby clearly has a black father (remember the Rasta?). More pseudo-jokes (Phyllis: "I’d breastfeed [the baby] but she’d get a mouthful of saline") and pseudo-judgments (Susan: "A woman’s mind changes after she gives birth."). Tirades about sexual harassment and the casting couch. An inept scene between Linda and her husband (James Blanshard). Mother wants another couple to adopt the mixed-race child. Lange (actor and author) to the rescue, with an ending lifted directly from Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. And all is right with the world.
This production was the play’s New York premiere. It may have some life in summer stock, but without Love Boat Lange aboard it will have no drawing card at all. Any straw-hatters tempted to produce it would do better by reviving Everybody Loves Opal. Or Charley’s Aunt.
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Copyright 2004 David Mackler