March 19, 2004



Last night, we saw a reading of Lisa Kron's new play, Well. I got nervous early. Kron, said the Playbill, has done many solo performances, not my favorite genre. (I admit The Syringa Tree makes this seem like a dumb rule.) She addressed us directly and said we weren't seeing a play, but a "theatrical exploration" of illness and health in both an individual and a community. This statement was followed by meta-jokes about the fact of the non-playness. We were introduced to her "actual" mother, sitting there on stage in a big recliner. Mom tried to get us all Cokes, wanted to ask our names, was shushed repeatedly.

Somehow, it built steam and worked. Kron's self-aggrandizement emerged as the first move in a carefully staged (like a rocket, not like a play) self-critique with plenty of fuel for critique of others. She spotlit her own uptightness to undermine her time in the spotlight.

The themes were binary: black/white, sick/well, country/city, Christian/Jew and so on. Mother: terminally paranoid and unwell, convinced allergies are lurking in the bushes, repsonsible for all her ills. Lisa: goes to allergy unit, leaves NY, becomes well, wonders why her mother just can't get it together while simultaneously admiring her for integrating their suburban Lansing neighborhood in the 50's.

The play is a staged collapse. The actors keep talking to "Mom," who keeps correcting Kron. Stage directions dissolve and the walls come tumbling down. Ick, we think. Thar lies coy technique masking a lack of ideas, we think. But it was nothing of the sort. The play (sorry, it was a play) was, at the end, about consciousness and normative privilege. Kron's best trope came up first as a gloss on Christianity. "People in the midwest think being Jewish is something you wear on top of being Christian. You are actually Christian and have chosen to put Jewishness on top of this." Race, sexuality and disease are put through the same construction during the play. It's a tight, fruitful way to attack a cognitive oyster that often refuses to be pried open. Those with normative privilege can't imagine not having it, and read other ways of living as optional plug-ins and extensions laid on top of the "regular" life "we" all lead.

Mother: "I never thought you'd become me. I loved who you were and what you were becoming. But I also thought you admired me."

Posted by Sasha at March 19, 2004 09:07 PM | TrackBack