documentary.nIn his dinner witti avant-garde theaterndirector Andre Gregory, Shawnncame across as the pragmatist to Gregory’snhardened ideahst. The plot wasnconfined to their meeting for dinner atnan “expensive” restaurant; but undernthe circumstances, the very idea of an:”plot” was obhterated, replaced, ornengulfed by the conversation they hadninstead. The theme of their discussionnis the nature and quality of theater inncontemporary society, and the verynpossibility or improbability of life innthe contemporary world. What strucknsome as stimulating seemed sophomoricnto others. Still, it was generallynconceded that the film succeeded innmaking the viewer feel like a guest atntheir table. The true test of My DinnernWith Andre’s durability as a work of artnwould be to recast the two roles andnsee how it fares. But the very notion ofntwo other actors portraying Wally andnAndre becomes preposterous and unfathomable.nUpon first viewing, Shawn’s sessionnwith Aunt Dan and Lemon seemednthat much more invigorating than hisndinner with Andre. As he claimed innan interview with Time, “At the risk ofnsounding self-pitying, the project taxednmy resources to the limit and sometimesnbeyond. It took more brains thannI had, and to figure out how to write it,nI had to borrow some of next year’snbrains and the next year’s brains asnwell.”nIn Aunt Dan and Lemon, Shawnnoffers both more and less of a “plot”nthan in his previous work. It beginsnwhen the effete and wasted Lemon,nshort for Leonora, addresses us fromnher armchair in her London flat:n”Hello, dear audience, dear good peoplenwho have taken yourselves out for anspecial treat, a night at the theater.nHello, little children. How sweet younare, how innocent. If everyone werenjust like you, perhaps the world wouldnbe nice again, perhaps we all would benhappy again.” Strictiy speaking, allnthat transpires is simply part of thenstory that Lemon imparts, which shenclaims is “everything about my life.”nHer life, it would seem, is nothingnmore than her abiding memories ofnthe eponymous Aunt Dan, short fornDanielle, who was a friend of Lemon’snparents and who became the overridingninfluence on Lemon. In fact, evennLemon’s parents are recalled only asnthey relate to Aunt Dan; and the remainingneight characters are all figuresnin stories told in turn by Aunt Dan, asnrelayed here by Lemon.nAs we soon learn. Lemon’s mothernmet Aunt Dan when they were inncollege together and became instantnfriends. Dan went on to become “onenof the youngest Americans ever tonteach at Oxford.” Lemon’s earliestnmemory is of when she was three.nAunt Dan was already a fixture in hernfamily constellation and became fornLemon, if not exacfly a surrogate parent,nthen at least a preferred one.nAlthough perhaps we should bear innmind that the entire play is refractednthrough Lemon’s unusual vision.nAunt Dan is also presented as annextremely eccentric figure. She isnposed as a brilliant intellectual whondwells on her respect for Kissinger:n”You see I don’t care if he’s arrogant ornboastful. . . . You can hardly call himna frivolous man. . . . That look on hisnface is there because he has seen thenpower of evil in the world.” In anotherninstance, she defends her admirationnfor Kissinger in one of many extendednmonologues: “I’m simply saying thatnifs terribly easy for us to criticize. It’snterribly easy for us to sit here and givenour opinions on the day’s events. Andnwhile we sit here in the sunshine andnhave our discussions about what we’venread in the morning papers, there arenthese certain other people, like Kissinger,nwho happen to have the very badnluck to be society’s leaders. And whilenwe sit here chatting, they have to donwhat has to be done. And so we chat,nbut they do what they have to do.”nFor the most part, Aunt Dan’s sentimentsnare not exactiy illogical, nor arenthey easily refuted, which becomesnpart of Shawn’s carefully calibratedndeception. Shawn presents genteelnpeople in an overly gentle package thatnhas the cadence and the mood of anfairy tale or a bedtime story for adults.nBut such gentility is offset by the casualnreferences to some of the mostntroubling and distressing issues thatnthreaten civilization today. Shawn hasnpenned a paradox, really, wherein thencharming and demure Lemon alludesnto her obsessive “reading about thenNazi killing of the Jews,” and hernsubsequent casual remark that “today,nof course, the Nazis are considerednnndunces, because they lost the war, butnit has to be said that they managed tonaccomplish a great deal of what theynwanted to do. They were certainlynsuccessful against the Jews.”nThis serves as a prelude to the morenscandalous diatribe she offers duringnher closing monologue. As before, thenshock value is increased because thenlines are delivered by the ostensiblyninnocent and lovely Lemon. As withnother fragments I have lifted from thentext, I quote at length to convey ansense of Shawn’s style:nSo it becomes absurd to talknabout the Nazis as if the Nazisnwere unique. That’s a kind ofnhypocrisy. Because the fact is, nonsociety has ever considered thentaking of life an unpardonablencrime or even, really, a majorntragedy. It’s something that’sndone when it has to be done,nand ifs as simple as that.n. . . Now when people say,n”Oh the Nazis were differentnfrom anyone, the Nazis werendifferent from anyone,” well,nperhaps that’s true in at leastnone way, which is that theynobserved themselves extremelynfrankly in the act of killing,nand they admitted frankly hownthey really felt about the wholenprocess. Yes, of course, theynadmitted, it’s very unpleasant,nand if we didn’t have to do itnin order to create a way of lifenthat we want for ourselves, wenwould never be involved innkilling at all. But since we havento do it, why not be truthfulnabout it, and why not admitnthat yes, yes, there’s somethingninside us that likes tonkill. . . . Because if there’s onenthing I learned from AuntnDan, I suppose you could say itnwas a kind of honesty.nShawn’s theme is not so much society’snneed to kill in the name of Right,nnor the absence or atrophy of “compassion”nin today’s self-serving world,nnor even as the jacket-copy to thenpublished version of the script suggests,n”the ease with which good andnbad become reconciled in the humannmind.” Rather, it’s an indictment ofnJULY 1986/49n