BWW Reviews: WELL at The Strand Plays with Humor and Grace
"This play is not about my mother and me," says Lisa Kron at the beginning of her autobiographical play, WELL. Of course,WELL is all about the playwright and her long-suffering mother. It's a funny and sad examination of the intensely complicated relationship of mothers and daughters where love and hostility co-exist as the past clashes with the present.
The stage is a half-cluttered living room where Ann is cocooned in her La-Z-boy recliner knocked out from living by a mystery ailment that she obsessively attributes to allergies. The set is a little character study filled with pill bottles, medical tomes, and collections of cute and nonsensical objects that Ann "just likes." Ann Kron's life is ruled by two things: allergies and racial integration. Her physical intolerance to the world is only matched by her passion to create a tolerant community that is a model of racial harmony.
Joan Webber is delightful as Ann who manages to be both lovable and exasperating. She alternates between narcissism and altruism, stealing the spotlight from her daughter in an entertaining emotional tug-of-war.
The other half of the stage is a spare space of scenes that change as Lisa makes her own journey from illness to wellness, from being an extension of her mother to being her own person.
Alexandra Linn approaches the role of the overburdened daughter lightly even as she smashes the fourth wall and puts the audience right in the middle of the action. Linn maintains focus as chaos reigns and theatrical conventions break down. Even as she loses control of her own play, she discovers she can confront her central fear of turning into her mother. She is inspirational as she demonstrates we can choose who we are and how we want to live no matter what is happening around us.
The toxic mother-daughter duo is backed-up by a chorus of talented performers (Michael Alban, Donna M. Fox, Kyla Janise, and Sean Naar) who play themselves and a parade of colorful characters from the lives of Ann and Lisa.
Can we make ourselves sick and can we make ourselves well? How much can we control and how much do we just have to tolerate? The actors and the action will draw you in on the lives of this quirky mother and daughter as they play out the conflicts and contradictions then show that you can heal with humor and grace.