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The Barter Blog

"The Lemonade Stand" reviewed by Bonny Gable

May 29, 2018

“The Lemonade Stand” by Matthew Fowler
Review by Bonny Gable

What would you do if you knew you could not fail? Or you didn’t care if you fail? In Barter Theatre’s dramatic comedy “The Lemonade Stand” by Matthew Fowler we witness the test of this query by Garret Miller. At age fifty Garret is fired from his ‘adult’ job and proceeds to throw caution to the wind to pursue his ‘dream’ job: opening a lemonade stand on the lawn of his suburban New York home.

Enter Rachel, his college-age neighbor, who appears to be overcome by a strange Tom Sawyer effect because she expresses a desire to become his summer intern. Separated by a generation, these two appear dramatically different. But this contrast is exactly what captures their interest in each other and endears them to us.

Communication is a struggle as each speaks in the native tongue of his/her respective era of birth. Garret is hard put to understand Rachel without constant reference to Urban Dictionary. That is, if he can figure out how to access the Internet with his phone. And Rachel needs to Google the cultural history of the 1970s to decipher what she hears from him. Yet they bounce rhetoric off each other with the light speed of a game of laser tag.

This clever sparring between Garret and Rachel is testament to their intrinsic intellectual gifts, even if they temporarily doubt them. He shuns the inevitable progress of time and she fears the challenge of the future. But both seek the true meaning and purpose in life, revealing they are more alike than it initially appears. The struggles they share working through these issues is a fascinating spectacle to watch. Director Barrett Guyton has guided this production with intelligence and wit. Pacing is brisk and we are swept up on the characters’ tumultuous journey to discovery what it truly means to “adult.”

Nicholas Piper is superb as the self-possessed and cool-under-fire Garret. Sarah Van Deusen is endearing as the nerdy girl-next-door Rachel who ultimately serves as his savior. Both are a perfect fit for this dialogue lush with acerbic wit, serving it up with deadpan ease that delightfully enriches the comedy.

Carrie Smith Lewis portrays Morgan with stamina and grace, delivering the wide range of emotional levels required in this role of the image-obsessed, put-upon wife who would be wise to heed the cautionary tale of the boy who cried “wolf.” Casting David Alford in the role of Terry — Garret’s brother with an extreme case of arrested development — was an excellent choice. The brawny, statuesque Alford plays the child-like Terry with an understated comedic flare that is hilarious.

The role of Kid is played by alternating actors Owen Griffith and Lucas Shane. Griffith was on board for this performance and gave a very honest and touching portrayal of the “inner child” that all the characters are grappling with. Kid tacitly reminds us of the simplicity of childhood, when our dreams were fresh and we imagined them a certainty rather than a mere possibility.

Hana Lee’s set design has a wonderful simplicity that belies the complexity of ideas expressed in the play. Sound design by Toni Angelini is a mix of contemporary music selections alternating with throwback tunes that is perfect for this intergenerational piece. Camille Davis’s lighting design is effective, especially in a surprise emergency scene.

Costume designer Lee Martin has clothed each character with care. From Garrett’s rock music t-shirts to Rachel’s quirky combinations, Morgan’s pristine pant suit ensembles, and Terry’s skimpy gym shorts – each costume exquisitely matches the individual’s personality. And to top it off, Whitney Kaibel’s wig design gives Morgan that perfect Hillary Clinton coif.

Garret Miller teaches us that while all new jargon has an expiration date, two things never become obsolete: courage and curiosity. “The Lemonade Stand” is a thought-provoking piece that takes an amazingly honest look at the reality of how we connect as humans and how we create quality of life. It’s also full of laughter and surprises. So put down your phone, unplug and enjoy the ride.

“The Lemonade Stand” runs through August 11.

For tickets and information: 276-628-3991 or www.bartertheatre.com