Ethnic Theater - Jewish
Longacre Theatre, Broadway
Writer-performer Lisa Kron describes herself as an outsider—a Jew, a midwesterner living in New York, and someone always dressed inappropriately. It is of such stuff that she has created her works, her one-woman shows. But now, with “Well”on Broadway, she has created a full-scale show which features herself in a cast of six. The result is a far more ambitious, far less successful, piece.
Earlier shows combined wit and poignancy, with emphasis on her father’s Holocaust background, her Lesbianism, her creative growth. Autobiographical, the shows had probed deeply into her soul.
Not so this time around. As Kron uses an experimental, avant-garde technique which breaks down the fourth wall and involves the audience in the process, she loses the emotional impact. Morevover, “Well” is all over the lot, never comes together as Kron promises it will. Unfortunately, Kron is no Pirandello. Better leave such techniques to the Italian maestro or to other more able practitioners.
Again, “Well” is a kind of documentary, drawing upon Kron’s own family. The story focuses on her mother who believed implicitly in two things—allergies and racial integration. In Lansing, Michigan, where Kron grew up, her mother was devoted to both. They were the only white (and Jewish) family in an all-black neighborhood. But as time went on, as the play shows, the allergies predominated. As Jane Houdyshell, who plays the elder Kron, says, she is allergic to weather, water and yellow dye no. 2. She frequently suffers collapses running to a year’s confinement in bed. Her daughter Lisa appears to be following the same route, but, after a bout at an allergy center, she opts, not for illness, but for wellness.
This is the stuff of the play. But Kron is so busy experimenting that it is all confusion and distraction. Conversations with her mother, with the actress who plays her mother, and with the audience who watches these chats, remain merely conversations. Momentary scenes with playmates and fellow sufferers are like shattered fragments of glass strewn across the stage.
Though one must commend Kron as an artist who is willing to explore different techniques, while carrying old baggage, some experiments simply do not work. Thus it is with “Well.”
-- Irene Backalenick
May 10, 2006