Austin Pendleton and Eleanor Handley
in Limonade Tous Les Jours
(© Brant Underwood)
Austin Pendleton and Eleanor Handley
in Limonade Tous Les Jours
(© Brant Underwood)
Charles L. Mee has been plugging the subject of love for some time, and he's at it again, tackling it from yet another angle, with Limonade Tous Les Jours, now at The Cell. Here, late-middle-age American tourist Andrew (Austin Pendleton) has a fling with Ya Ya (Eleanor Handley), a Parisienne half his age. And while the work lasts a mere 70 minutes, it could easily have been only 20 minutes long for audiences to get the gist.

That isn't to stay the unstoppably prolific Mee isn't on to something. He's even funny making an argument that's difficult to deny: Love is often irrational, and so are lovers. Discussing their complicated attraction to each other from the moment they meet at a Paris sidewalk cafe, Ya Ya and Andrew continue battling over the bottomless topic like two dogs over a bone. Whether they're in bed together or visiting a couturier's salon or other establishments around town, they parse in often laugh-worthy phrases what it is about themselves and each other that draws them together and repels them and how unlikely it is that they will extend their infatuation beyond the limits of an average fling.

The problem for the audience -- sitting on two sides of a playing area decorated by set designer Hilary Noxon -- is that this more or less stream-of-consciousness banter remains interesting only long enough to establish Mee's joke about how the abiding French interest in love reduces the intellect to a bowl of soupe a l'oignon. And even though Mee has thrown in a few distractions, they don't have the effect he might have wished.

For example, Mee has Andrew visit the boite where Ya Ya in a slinky gown sings Edith Piaf's "Hymne a l'Amour." It's not an especially great idea, since Handley isn't much of a chanteuse -- and she doesn't improve measurably by the time towards the denouement when she intones Piaf's even more impassioned "Mon Dieu." Meanwhile, Anton Briones, who spends most of his time as a waiter, does a nimble if unnecessary balletic tap number.

The main players fare well enough, though. Pendleton is once again his utterly believable acting self, spouting lines and repeatedly saying "yes" through Handley's more copious blurts. She's amusingly convincing, even if her French accent isn't. And director Diana Basmajian brings as much variety to the postage-stamp proceedings as Mee -- in his unchecked desire to mock and praise love -- allows.