In County of Kings, slam poet Lemon Andersen invites audiences to “watch me take my lemons/and make the best Goddamn lemonade.” Andersen serves no literal beverage, but he offers a tart, sweet show—theatrical refreshment. In this solo play, he recounts a cruel Brooklyn childhood. Though he describes himself as “Golden Child/Oliver Twist kid with a Kool-Aid smile,” he loses his parents—first to drugs and jail, then to AIDS. Peers reject him and schools fail him. He lands in Rikers before he’s old enough to drink.
Under Elise Thoron’s direction, Andersen varies his reminiscences with lyrical interludes and the occasional dance break. He switches among characters and accents, returning most often to his pained, posturing adolescent self. Andersen has a prodigious gift for language, making words arc and soar, and conjuring unexpected rhymes. As a performer, he summons a hyperactive energy, interweaving this brio with welcome vulnerability. He sidesteps predictability, expressing himself eloquently and candidly. Despite what Andersen promises in the show’s opening lines, he cuts his story short, ending before he turns himself “into the king/of the poetry spit fame.” Perhaps he’ll whip up another batch of lemonade in the sequel.