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In Conversation With Chris Lemmon -- Actor, Author, Son

Connecticut actor and author Chris Lemmon has been touring for the last 18 months with a unique and acclaimed play that he’s written called, “A Twist of Lemmon.”  

It’s based on his 2006 book of the same name, a tribute to his father, Hollywood legend, Jack Lemmon. The play is a one-man multimedia show, with live music from Chris at the piano, acting and personal photos. Chris Lemmon spoke with WSHU’s Tom Kuser about his play. Below is a transcript of their conversation:

I call this a one man show which I guess it is technically, but since you’re telling the story from your father’s perspective, I guess we could also say there are really two people on stage.  

That’s kind of an interesting way to put it. Yeah. In as much of a nutshell as a Lemmon can do, you know we Lemmons do a half-hour hello. Jack Lemmon has been to see the doctor before the show begins, and his doctor told him he has three months to live. And Jack’s decided he’s going to bring all his best friends, the audience, sit them down over a cup of coffee and tell them his life story. And in the course of telling that life story, he stumbles across the relationship with his son, me, and that begins to take center stage and brings that full circle.  

And I’ve heard your performance in the play described as more of challenging than an imitation of your dad.

It can’t be an imitation, it can’t be an impersonation of Jack. I’m on stage for 90 minutes as Jack. It has to be him speaking through me or else it’s just not believable, it’s not a good performance. But it’s also important because I do at least 60 plus other characters from that era, Jimmy Cagney, Marilyn Monroe, Walter Matthau and all of the people he had interaction with throughout his career.

In your book you talk about a great love that you and your father shared really from your earliest memories of him. And this even as you endured cycles of growing apart and coming back together over the years. That’s really a very sensitive thing to have talk about. Do you represent this in your play?

Yes, absolutely, it’s essential that the story be told completely, with all the bumps in the road. The book originally started as a search for catharsis. I started writing down my memories of my adventures of this incredible human leprechaun that was my father. And then one day I stumbled across a paragraph which was:

“The father-son relationship is enigmatic to say the least. Loving yet competitive, caring yet judgmental.”

Well, it’s not a paragraph. It’s a sentence, isn’t it? I’m a writer, see, I know about these things, paragraphs and sentences. And that’s when I realized that I had a story that was worth telling.