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Well

The biographical aspects of theatre are unavoidable, but turning life into art: there's the rub. Lisa Kron's Well, like her previous work, dips deep into her unique upbringing and attempts to synthesize the culture of personal illness and the racial integration of society within the framework of experimental theatre: picture the mirror image of Luigi Pirandello's classic, Six Actors in Search of an Author, where the author loses control over a half dozen actors (including herself) in search of personal insight, meaning, and transparency of form.

Kate Levy as Lisa Kron
Kate Levy as Lisa Kron
Photo by Terry Shapiro
As a performance artist and comedienne, Lisa (played by Kate Levy), is inventive and funny, and there are a number of insightful and truly comical moments in the play, but in the end, apparently in fear of seeming trite (as her mother, Ann [Kathleen M. Brady], says in the play), the playwright's choices leave us with a formless series of encounters that fail to deliver us over the threshold of catharsis.

This is not to diminish Kron's success at escaping disease and dis-ease by changing personal habits (most notably diet) and pursuing personal discovery (coming out of the closet), but extending this wellness to society in general and wrapping it in a transparent theatrical device eludes her. Part of this is due to the overly conscious efforts to draw attention to the form: Kron continually breaks the forth wall with playwright-actor conflicts, but these encounters lend little if anything to her psychological and social quest for a greater wellness, other than to say her story isn't unfolding in the way she originally conceived it.

Kathleen M. Brady as Ann Kron
Kathleen M. Brady as Ann Kron
Photo by Terry Shapiro
Director Christy Montour-Larson does a lot on a small stage—effortlessly moving the action between the living room in Lisa's childhood home, the allergy clinic at Chicago's Henrotin Hospital, and various sites in Lansing, Michigan, where Kron was raised—with timely yet subtle stage business that references the psychological underpinnings of the locations (for example, Lisa fidgeting with the arrangement of the hospital beds while her mother Ann discourses on a seemingly unrelated topic). Lisa M. Orzolek's tripartite set and Meghan Anderson Doyle's fun costumes align perfectly with the story's tone.

Levy's high-energy performance, engaging personality, and comedic timing draw us in to Lisa's struggle to make sense of her life. Brady's Ann provides a perfect counterbalance to Lisa, with a dry and unassuming demeanor that charms the other actors and steals their affections from her daughter.

(Left to right) Robert Jason Jackson, Erik Sandvold, Rachel Fowler and Shauna Miles
(L to R) Robert Jason Jackson, Erik Sandvold,
Rachel Fowler and Shauna Miles
Photo by Terry Shapiro
Actor's A, B, C, and D (Rachel Fowler, Shauna Miles, Robert Jason Jackson, and Erik Sandvold) enliven the story with a series of hilarious send ups, including a neurotic allergy patient, a taunting childhood acquaintance, a gay male nurse, and a squeaky-clean, overly-cheery doctor.

Why we are the way we are and what we can do to create wellness and wholeness in our lives and the lives of everyone else is The Big Question as humanity stands at its crossroads. To create art that provides a transformative experience of this quest requires a spiritual component that remains outside the conscious experience of a majority of beings on this planet, but one which is necessary if we are to survive in a sustainable and progressive manner. As our church, the theatre plays an integral role in providing alternatives to the tyranny of corporate interests over human health and well-being. Though Well doesn't wholly succeed in providing this, it does ask many of the key questions.

The Denver Center Theatre Company's production of Well runs through December 19th. 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org.

Bob Bows

 

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