Thursday, March 15, 2007

Well, Well, Well...

"This looks like some fucked-up downtown shit!"

That is a line spoken by one of the supporting characters in Lisa Kron's Well, now playing at the Huntington Theatre. He speaks these lines as the conceit of Kron's big-hearted work comes apart, literally and figuratively, leaving the stage hiply disheveled.

However, one thing I have always noticed about the more well-known solo performers like Mike Daisey, Lisa Kron, Spalding Grey, etc, is that they disarm you immediately with just how unpretentious they are. It is similar to reaction many people have when they first experience Blue Man Group. After a few minutes, one realizes, "Hey, these people aren't here to talk down to me, and they aren't at all like the parodies of performance art I see all the time."

I felt that way with Kron's 2.5 Minute Ride, and then again last night at Well. In this play, Kron is out to have a good time with herself, her profession, her family and with the audience. There is not a pretensious bone or blood vessel in the entire enterprise. It is "Well," as Kron would say.

Even some of the "unexpected" forces of antagonism seem less than threatening. And for all of the fun she has with terms and words and their multiple meanings, there is a surprising lack of irony.

Kron's play is admirable, and I had a good time, but I was always aware of the fact that on another night, when my mood might be different, I might have aggressively disliked it. It is a highly constructed and contained play, about how life isn't constructed or contained. The fun part is that Kron knows this and says so right from the start. But this is also the frustrating part. As Kron's play starts to take on all the conventions of the well-made play and all of the downtown cliches of performance art and Pirandello (by way of Rupert Holmes,) the set-up becomes a little too much for the punchline.

On another night, I may have found myself longing for some of that f**d up downtown shit.

On a more technical note, I thought the biggest hurdle for Kron's playful nature was crossing the gulf created by being in a big house like the Huntington's mainstage at the Boston University Theatre. This is an important lifeline for this work and it had a tendency to fall into the chasm at times.

Side Note: An eerie thing happened during the performance. A gentleman got up from his seat and walked to the back of the theatre, near where I was sitting. As he walked through the threshold to the lobby, he collapsed or fell. The noise was enough to cause some heads to turn and through the swinging door to the lobby I could see the front of house staff rushing to assist.

Considering Lisa Kron's central questions in this work, (health and wellness,) it was a little disturbing to see it actually played out so realistically about 15 feet away from me.

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