Why do some people get sick while others remain well? This is the colossal, head scratching question that Lisa Kron’s autobiographical production explores with the audience. Well, directed by Braden Abraham, explores the health of individuals and communities by allowing the audience to see into the tumultuous (and quite humorous) life of Lisa Kron herself.
Set in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, the fight for racial equality is at it’s head. Lisa (played by Sarah Rudinoff) and her mother, Ann (played by Barbara Dirickson) move to a new neighborhood and discover they are the only Jewish family there. Ann decides to spearhead a racial, and culturally inclusive, integration movement to eradicate prejudice in their urban suburb. All the while, Ann struggles with constant critical illnesses that prevent her from living a full life. Well explores every dimension of racial integration, and what it means for the health of communities, while Lisa struggles to understand the cause of her mother’s health in relation to her own.
The opening scene grants the audience access inside Lisa’s conflicting mind, and Ann Kron’s delightfully cluttered living room. A ragged lazy boy recliner make’s it’s debut front and center, featuring a crotched chevron patterned blanket-the kind you’d definitely find at grandma’s house. Piles of magazines are stacked about the space, their height comparable to a small child. The bookshelves are full of small plastic totes, surely containing miscellaneous items from Ann Kron’s life. The setup perfectly captures the essence of an old woman desperately holding on to everything that was once important to her.
Lisa begins the play by explaining to the audience why she questions her mother’s illness. She reveals that she had examined her own sickness at age 19 by checking into an extended stay allergy clinic. While there, she meets some nutty characters that cause her to evaluate why she believes she’s sick. As she comes to her own conclusion that chronic illness is all in one’s head, a fellow patient challenges her beliefs which causes Lisa to go spiraling through a cycle of emotion. This leads Lisa to confront her mother harshly by saying, “I think I was sick, because you were sick.”
Ann, through all her sickness, remains as charismatic and witty as ever; and continues to be a shining star throughout the play despite Lisa’s attempts to push her out of the spotlight. She becomes a beacon of light for those who are ill, but still strive to live with purpose. Anne may be physically weak, but mentally, she is a force to be reckoned with. She is an example of how far a voice can travel even if the body it resides in can’t move.
Throughout the play, the writing, as well as the pure talent of the actors, stuck me deeply. Ann reminds us all that it’s okay to have reactions in life; that it’s okay to say what you want to say.
Well is sure to touch anyone who dares see a production that challenges beliefs, stereotypes and relationships. To live in Lisa Kron’s world for an hour and a half is as riveting as it is thought provoking. The Seattle Repertory Theatre created the perfect home for this original, unique play.
To experience Well, go to the Seattle Repertory Theatre’s website for showtimes and tickets. Well is playing February 10th-March 5th 2017.
Seattle Repertory Theatre
155 Mercer Street
Seattle, WA 98109