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Shows Worth Seeing:

By Lisa Kron
Public Theater
425 Lafayette St.

Lisa Kron says Well isn’t a play about her and her mother. She also says it’s not really a play at all but rather “a solo show with other actors in it.” She also arranges matters so that this play, or whatever it is, appears to slip from her grasp and spin out of control by the end—a flagrantly transparent hoax that leaves her looking like an endearingly inept author-cum-actor-cum-stage manager in a Thornton Wilder spinoff. The ostensible subject of Well is an investigation of why Lisa (or “Lisa”) was able to overcome the state of chronic psychosomatic illness that dominated her childhood whereas her mother (played with wonderfully wry dowdiness by Jayne Houdyshell) remained stuck in that condition. A subplot focuses on the mother’s community organizing efforts and racial integration in the Michigan suburb where the family lived. The real subject of Well, though, is a ruthless self-investigation, a search for the roots of Kron’s own creativity by way of a search for the assumptions and motivations she shares with her mom. It’s as if she can’t hope to find the proper nature or structure of any play she works on until she first figures out how her particular urbane self-confidence grew from the soil of her mother’s provincial hypochondria. Even the rampant silliness in this delightful evening brims over with integrity, intelligence and courage.

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