Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 7, 2008


New Century Theatre, Northampton
through July 13, 2008
By Donna Bailey-Thompson

"Well" surprises – often. The performance begins before the audience realizes that the woman introduced by Sam Rush (co-founder of NCT with Jack Neary) is actually speaking the opening lines of "Well." Adrianne Krstansky, portraying Lisa Kron the playwright responsible for this madcap play, at times is so far out of the box that it defies categorizing. The premise: what keeps some people, i.e., Lisa’s mother, Ann Kron (played to a fare-thee-well by Ellen Colton) continuously ill whereas Lisa recovers from whatever besets her, most notably a panoply of allergies. But there’s more, e.g., racial relations, religious prejudices. Because "Well" is not concerned, per se, with exploring the dynamics intrinsic to a mother-daughter relationship, it is not fraught with Freudian slips or petticoats. Nor is it exactly linear. It’s all over the place but disciplined. Pithy points are encased in humor.

In fact, the first act rollicks with one funny bit after another. When the line itself isn’t funny, the body English is. The surprised looks shot back and forth between mother and daughter engender laughter. The second act is a tad less frenetic.

Krstansky owns the stage. She talks a blue streak, jumping from fragments to an almost-complete thought, then second-guesses herself, all at the speed of light. In many respects, "Well" is a solo show that includes other people.

Periodically, Colton stirs from her lounger in the corner of a livingroom to shuffle in her slippers and layered sleep attire to the front of the stage where she expounds, smiling. When she stops talking and smiling with her mouth, her body continues smiling and communicating. She is one very funny lady.

Portraying 12 roles are four multi-talented actors –Troy David Mercier, Joan Valentina, Susan Dziura, and Jose Docen. The speed-wheeling of white privacy screens and hospital beds seems patterned after Rome’s wild and crazy vehicular maneuvers.

Kudos to Heather Crocker Aulenback’s costuming, Daniel D. Rist’s lighting, Andrew Stuart’s set design (Ann’s oasis is a hypochondriac’s dream), and especially to Director Keith Langsdale for a "Well" that charms and challenges.