Two for the Price of One: A Twist of Lemmon

A memoir can tell about the life of an individual, but might not get the image across clearly. A stage performance can provide incredible flare, but requires a strong base of meaning to make it worthwhile. When you take the heartwarming, yet heartbreaking true tale of a familial relationship published in writing and play it out on stage, you get a Twist of Lemmon, a one-man show by Chris Lemmon.

Lemmon is a guest lecturer at the University of New Haven, teaching the communication class “The Golden Age of Film – Life Beyond the Silver Screen.” His course takes inspiration from the films of the early 20th century, featuring the professor’s father, acting legend Jack Lemmon. Growing up the child of a celebrity allowed Lemmon to see a different aspect of life, including the viewpoint of his father. His experiences culminated in the story of Twist of Lemmon, which was brought to life by the multi-talented Lemmon through action, song, and piano.

“Twist of Lemmon” graphic designed by Jordan Campbell

Twist of Lemmon primarily focuses on the career and personal accounts of Jack Lemmon as he evolved into one of Hollywood’s greatest legends. Lemmon transitions seamlessly between himself and his father, complete with his speech pattern and enigmatic gestures no professional could ever imitate so perfectly.

Lemmon brought his father back to life to explain life in the fast lane, from watching his inspirations on the big screen to meeting his wife in his first New York stage show. Lemmon narrated his father’s beginning to life in the fast lane when he rose to prominence with Mister Roberts, The Apartment and Days of Wine and Roses.

Lemmon’s professional life? Just peachy. His home life? Started to get a bit messy…

Lemmon would periodically break the lightheartedness of his father’s voice to reveal events turned sour at home. His business led him to divorcing his first wife and spiraling into alcoholism, which he would not publically disclose until 1998. Things grew even worse when Jack spent less and less time with his son, and it was only after 30 years that they were able to reform their relationship.

After looking back on his life and watching the people he was once close with accepting the doctor’s news of him dying, Jack Lemmon’s spirit departed Dodds Theatre as his son Chris returned and brought the production to a close.

Twist of Lemmon is well crafted and clever in its honesty about the life of actors behind the glitz and glamour of the celebrity world; dealing with drug addiction and strained relationship beneath the award shows and paparazzi. Lemmon told the raw truth about how his father’s life moved faster than most, between the comedic moments celebrating the lighter times such as partying with old and slowing down the audience excitement by revealing his son witnessing one of Jack’s drunk episodes. Lemmon never failed to humor the audience, but knew when to take a step back and look at the harder parts of “not [being known as] Chris Lemmon, always just ‘Jack Lemmon’s son’… always an object…”

Creativity was overflowing throughout the entire show. On stage, Lemmon was able to showcase his acting chops and stamina by acting out all of the movements and voices of all involved in the autobiography. He hushed all voices in the theatre when he crooned out spectacular tunes and brushed out beautiful melodies on the old ivory keys, proving that he rightfully earned his degree in classical piano.

The play itself also drew in a wide demographic between young and old. Both older fans of Jack Lemmon’s work and young college adults flocked the theatre. Audiences shared laughter, tears, and smiles as Lemmon ensnared all in a web of truth and wonder coming from the Golden Age of Film and its kings and queens.