Charles Mee’s bittersweet romantic comedy “Limonade Tous Les Jours” is an excellent example of this playwright’s strengths and weaknesses. The writing is witty and lyrical, with distinctive and sympathetic characters. But Mee unfortunately chooses to pad what might have been a solid one-act with tedious video projection sequences and an operatic dance number that, while expertly sung by Ethan Lin, is merely pretentious. The West Coast premiere production at 2100 Square Feet benefits from a knockout lead perf by Megan Boone and strong, subtle work from her co-star, Peter Lewis.
Middle-aged Andrew (Lewis) has arrived in Paris to visit with an old friend. While waiting in a cafe for his friend to arrive, he meets young nightclub singer Ya Ya (Boone), who’s there to tell him his friend is unable to meet him. Although Ya Ya cheerily proclaims Andrew a “stuffed shirt,” she feels that makes him safe to flirt with, and she invites him to come hear her sing. Surprisingly, they make a romantic connection, even though they both realize the relationship is unlikely to last. As Andrew says, however, “Love pays no attention to what is useful or considerate.”
Boone is thoroughly believable as the complicated Ya Ya, a woman with control issues who wants to appear tough, yet is still vulnerable. Her French accent is impeccable, and her singing is low-key but lovely. Boone’s main achievement in this role is to seamlessly present a three-dimensional character who thinks, makes pronouncements and instantly contradicts herself — who is real, in the moment and charming. Lewis has a less showy role, but he brings a convincing gravitas to the older, more experienced Andrew, who knows the relationship likely won’t last but goes for it despite his feeling that “it’s not the worst in us that gets us into trouble, it’s the best.”
Director Michael Connors elicits fine work from his cast, but he doesn’t overcome the offbeat staging obstacles with which Mee has mined the play. Adam Rigg’s set — a bed, a bathtub, a bench, a bar, a boutique and a bistro –combines many settings into one simply and effectively.