note: entire contents copyright 2007 by Carl A. Rossi
Lisa … Lisa Kron
Ann … Mary Pat Gleason
Howard, and others … John McAdams
Jim, and others … Colman Domingo
Kay, and others … Donnetta Lavinia Grays
Joy, and others … Barbara Pitts
Lisa Kron’s acclaimed comedy WELL is now playing at the Huntington but feels like an A.R.T. evening for it is too cerebral for its own good, is forever reminding you of its Pirandellian cleverness and is performed without an intermission: an old woman, dressed in nightgown and sweater-jacket, sleeps on a recliner chair in a room lined with collectables; Ms. Kron enters and introduces herself, introduces the sleeping woman as her mother Ann, and assures us that for almost two hours we will not be seeing a play but, rather, an exploration of illness and well-ness, and that she will be drawing on her relationship with Ann to merely justify why some (like Ms. Kron) can be ill for years but get well whereas others (like Ann, who “healed” their neighborhood by helping to racially integrate it) remain ill yet do nothing about it. Ann awakens, is surprised at finding herself before an audience and proceeds to sweetly undermine Ms. Kron’s running commentary with her well-intentioned own. WELL could have made an engrossing drama but Ms. Kron insists on being cute and changes her own rules, often: thus, WELL is a one-woman show written for an ensemble of six; the sleeping woman is not Ann Kron but is portrayed by the excellent Mary Pat Gleason (who breaks character at the end); the Exploration becomes a play, after all, with all of its stage-tricks carefully orchestrated to hold one’s interest; despite the insights into the nature of illness, everything can be settled in a pinch if you simply talk to your mother (but, then, there would be no WELL). Add numerous turns from childhood and in an allergy clinic and you reap a pile of jigsaw pieces in your lap; some of the pieces are quite funny, in and of themselves, but it is up to you to assemble them, if so inclined.
Judging by the decibels of audience-laughter on the night I attended, WELL is a hit whenever Ms. Gleason opens her mouth (she plays Ann as a loveable old badger) and whenever Donnetta Lavinia Grays pops up as a nine-year-old bully from yesteryear. WELL would indeed have been something had Ms. Kron plopped her real mum onstage to muddle about, unscripted, but, then, such insights would have “worked” only once; thus, WELL, for all its daringness, boils down to being a faux-Event.