Subtext

By Teddy Wayne

(Flyer from a one-night, Way Way Off  Broadway production)
 
At first blush, you will probably dismiss my one-act play, Lemonade Cups For Sale, 50 Cents a Cup!, which premieres tonight at the 138th St. Performance Space/Big Lou’s Boxing Gym, as a slight, albeit charming, character study of Eddy Wain, an adorable scamp quixotically determined to raise enough money from his lemonade stand to buy two wedding rings and thus reunite his estranged parents.  But if that’s all you think, I’m sorry to say that you will be projecting your own childhood problems onto it and overlooking all its incisive geopolitical parallels with the U.S. military’s morally bankrupt occupation of Iraq, which I happen to know is the main point of the work, since I wrote it.

 I won’t force-feed the allegorical meaning down your throat–my audience may take from the play what it will, in accordance with its own need to repress, as happened with some of those who saw  my début one-man show last fall, My Parents Divorced When I Was Seven and All I Got Was This Lousy Abandonment Complex.  (My closest friends found all sorts of social commentary in that 75-minute piece, from an indictment of the so-called “progressive” income tax to a scathing rebuke of our celebrity-obsessed culture.  I know this is true, because when I asked if they caught these underlying themes, they said, “Yes” and/or nodded.)

Still, even though I was regularly beaten up at recess, I’d be surprised if you hadn’t identified Lemonade’s schoolyard bully, Georgie, as a stand-in for former Commander-in-Thief George W. Bush.  Georgie is described in the stage directions as “wearer of a constant smirk suggesting a charmed life bereft of pain, self-knowledge, or bitter parental discord he will passively internalize for his own failed adult relationships.”  And the resonantly named child psychiatrist Ronald Vodkasfeld’s knee-jerk overprescription of Ritalin and Wellbutrin to a still-developing boy who simply has an active imagination and a perfectly normal tendency to sob uncontrollably from a fetal position when his juice box tastes too “apple-y–this obviously has little if anything to do with an author’s self-pity and everything to do with a certain Secretary of State’s paternalistically “prescribing” democracy to a Middle Eastern  Ba’athist state that may not be historically ready for it.

What about young Eddy’s tearful forty-minute conference call to his parents’ answering machines–a monologue so naturalistic it almost seems taken from real life while displaying a maturity and vocabulary far beyond the fictional character’s eight years? You might take it as a spoiled child’s whining  instead  of what it really is–an indictment of the dwindling supply and price-hiking of lemons as a damning reflection of our foreign- oil dependency.

Finally, Eddy’s alternately cruel and indifferent older stepsiblings Derek and Nellie, both played by me, are not actually meant to represent Eric and Kelly.  They are of course the Iraqi insurgents.  Or the U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib.  It’s deliberately ambiguous.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I hear the Muse calling, much unlike my father, who forgot to call on my last birthday.  The true artist is always intellectually aware of the abundant material presented by the world around him as his heart moves in profound sympathy with the suffering of others, such as those Iraqi children orphaned either literally or, worse, metaphorically.


Teddy Wayne is the author of the novel “Kapitoil,” available from Harper Perennial.