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Well
by Lisa Kron
Directed by Deanna Jent
Mustard Seed Theatre
March 14, 2019

Lori Adams, Katy Keating
Photo by Ann K Photography
Mustard Seed Theatre

 

Well is an intensely personal play. The latest production from Mustard Seed Theatre assembles a top-notch cast to tell playwright Lisa Kron’s autobiographical tale that deals with health and wellness in various different aspects, physical, emotional, and relational. Essentially a comedy, there are some serious issues tackled here as well, and though the structure does seem a bit pretentious at times, it’s the personal relationships and connections, along with the strong performances, that make this production especially memorable.

Even though Well, as it’s written, is personal in itself, the original casting made it even more so, as playwright Kron played herself, surrounded by actors playing all the other roles, which I would imagine adds to the whole “meta” aspect of the story and the way it all plays out. Here, Kron is played by the excellent Katy Keating, who does an especially admirable job inhabiting the role, although the aspect of artifice is still there in a way it isn’t when the playwright is playing herself. That’s a difference that’s inherent to the situation, though, and it’s one that all regional productions of this play are going to share. This is one of those plays that announces its theatricality in its very structure, and with Kron’s witty, insightful script and Mustard Seed’s strong cast, that concept works. Here, Kron (Keating) starts out introducing the concept of her play, only to be interrupted by her mother, Ann (Lori Adams), who has dealt with chronic illness for as long as Lisa can remember. As Lisa tells the story, tales from her childhood and young adulthood are acted out by her and the rest of cast (Alica Revé Like, Carl Overly Jr., Bob Thibault, and Leslie Wobbe), highlighting her own experiences with illness and her mother’s theories about allergies, as well as Ann’s efforts to encourage racial diversity in their Michigan community in the 1960s and 70s. The structure is spelled out at the beginning, due to Ann’s intervention, the story, Lisa’s memories, and the very concept of the play are put under further scrutiny as the purpose for the story is made clear to the audience and to Lisa herself. Ultimately, this is an examination of the playwrights relationship with her mother, and with her own perspective and how that perspective has influenced her own thoughts and attitudes about life itself.

The structure of the play can seem a little overly and obviously “deconstructed” at times, but the overall concept is still compelling, especially as staged by the excellent company at Mustard Seed and led by Keating’s remarkable performance as Lisa. The story is about her, and even as her plans start to fall apart around her, Keating’s relatable presence anchors the show. Adams, as Ann, is also excellent, and the scenes between her and Keating are especially compelling. The rest of the players play their various roles well, in addition, lending solid support to Keating and Adams, as well as to the story and concept of the play itself.

The plays deconstructional nature is reflected well in its staging, as well, and its half-realistic, half-abstract set designed by Bess Moynihan. Ann’s house is well-realized on one side, while the other half of the stage is more open and adaptable. The lighting by Michael Sullivan adds to the overall tone of the show, along with Zoe Sullivan’s sound design and Jane Sullivan’s costumes, which suit the characters well and add a touch of symbolism and connection between the characters, especially Lisa and Ann.

Overall, Well is a memorable, character-driven look at personal relationships as well as attitudes toward physical, emotional, and community health. It’s particularly well-cast, even if the autobiographical aspect is altered slightly from its original presentation. It’s especially effective as a showcase for its superb cast. This is another thoughtful, memorable production from Mustard Seed Theatre.

Katy Keating, Bob Thibault, Carl Overly Jr., Leslie Wobbe, Alica Revé Like
Photo by Ann K Photography
Mustard Seed Theatre

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