Lemon Andersen grew up in Kings County ï¿½ aka Brooklyn. His education was of the street variety. While his mother Millie was in rehab, his step father Chado who ï¿½had moved in overnight and cared for me and my brother Peter like we were his right and left nut,ï¿½ taught them the finer things in life: How to make and use a pen gun, how to strip and steel cars. When Lemonï¿½s brother Peter wasnï¿½t with them, he was off in the tunnels tagging the subway walls and cars.
Ahhhh the good old days.
Itï¿½s a gritty tale that is sprinkled with tragedy ï¿½ Lemon makes it to the Feld School of Ballet, but he gets caught stealing and is expelled. Millie dies of AIDS. Chado dies as well. The brothers are boy-men, alone in a nasty-ass world. Drugs are not far behind, nor is an early marriage to a girl because she is pregnant. And of course there is jail.
It is in jail that Lemon reads. And reads. And reads. And reads. And writes his first Haiku:
The worst Thing about
Doing a bid in Prison
Is coming back home.
Then comes jail again ï¿½ this time in Ohio. When he gets out he finds his way to El Puente where poetry is transformed in to rhythms and rhyme that explode in front of Lemon, reach out and become the net that saves him. ï¿½For the first time in my life I feel I have something to say, the fly way.ï¿½
While Anderson is talented and charismatic, and his story is remarkable, the telling of it is not. It is a memoir that lacks structure and style-wise it is dated. Anderson uses hip-hop for nearly 50% of his story, and is seems odd to watch a 35 year old man lock himself into this style. I understand that it is what he started out doing 15 years ago, but here it overshadows his acting skills and makes an evening that appeals to the teenagers in the audience, but doesnï¿½t make it to the adults. And in some ways this may be a tale that is really suited to teenagers as a sort of ï¿½Scared Straightï¿½ for our times.
Anderson has a lot to say. He took the garbage that was his life and decided to stand on top of the pile instead of being buried by it. It is an astonishing achievement, but County of Kings, does not do him or his story justice.
"Andersen has a distinctive talent that makes words sing in ways that insist you listen."
New York Times
"a mean-streets saga surging with the rhythms of urban hip-hop poetry"
New York Post
"transforms Lemon's poetry and remarkable story into a compelling drama"
"the production's tech aspects need polish, but its center -- Andersen -- is pitch-perfect."