A courteous, comely young woman named Lemon (Ward-Hays) sits rotting in a well-to-do sitting room. She passes the time reading about the crimes at Treblinka and weaving disturbingly charming arguments for the Nazis as “refreshing.” Peeling back the layers of a childhood that could create such a lovely monster, Aunt Dan asks a cold and subtle question: Are we just less honest about our complicity in the world’s horrors than Lemon?
Lemon’s memories are populated with brilliant creatures spewing articulate hatred. Even as you recoil from Dan’s worship of Henry Kissinger, you can’t dismiss her arguments entirely. Barrie, exquisite as always, presents this Svengali with a disarming sensuousness; a mix of faith and pent-up sex, she could be an escaped nun from Black Narcissus. Written nearly 25 years ago by Shawn, trafficker in unpleasant truths, Aunt Dan boasts a prescient assessment of neoconservatism taken to an extreme, but it refuses to dismiss the far right as stupid. Sounds gloomy, but it’s filled with sick laughs. The ensemble is an excellent pack of beasts, from Ron Kuzava as Lemon’s frothing American father to Caitlin Emmons’s amoral call girl, stalking the stage for prey. It’s rarely such fun to hate everyone onstage.
Heath Hays’s set design extends the sumptuous feel of the Chopin’s basement lobby directly into the playing area, as though Lemon and the audience are having a drink together. It’s a comfortable place. Luckily, the play isn’t.