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Diversionary presents Kron in repertory

By Charlene Baldridge | Theater Review

‘2.5 Minute Ride’ (seen Feb. 18)

They call it the San Diego revival of Lisa Kron’s “2.5 Minute Ride.” Early in the script’s development, La Jolla Playhouse presented the monologue, featuring the playwright in the role of memoirist.

Diversionary Theatre in University Heights — which recently received the San Diego Critics Circle Don Braunagel Award for Outstanding Small Theater — currently presents Kron’s one-woman “2.5 Minute Ride” and her six-actor “Well,” also autobiographically based, in rotating repertory through March 19.

Shana Wride as Lisa in “2.5 Minute Ride” (Photos by Daren Scott)

Though this writer experienced the original production of “2.5 Minute Ride” in 1996, detailed recollection of the event fails, and there is no review or write-up to be found.

So the experience of the 75-minute work, with Shana Wride profoundly portraying Lisa under Rosina Reynolds’ precise direction, was as if a new experience, and a splendid one at that.

Kron weaves together three interlocking journeys, seemingly willy-nilly streams of consciousness, but actually structured for maximum effect, dramatic and comedic, a combination that prevents our being overcome by the tragic by providing leavening agents that keep us from being overwhelmed.

The principal journey is Kron’s trip with her father to Germany and Poland that culminates at Auschwitz, where his parents died. He, like many others who never saw their parents again, was removed in 1937 by participation in the kinder transport.

The other stories detail the annual family excursion from Lansing, Michigan, to the Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio, which has a huge rollercoaster collection (hence the play’s title).

This type excursion, accomplished by using three full-size automobiles, was common to families of yore.

The third journey concerns Lisa’s attendance, with her longtime lesbian partner, of her brother’s orthodox Jewish wedding ceremony in Brooklyn. They went expecting to scoff and were instead enchanted.

‘Well’ (seen Feb. 19)

Kron’s “Well,” which premiered on Broadway in 2006, is the playwright’s effort to deal with her mother, of whom she says, “We were entwined.”

Lisa (played by the luminous, insightful Samantha Ginn in this play directed by Kym Pappas), places said Mom, Ann Kron (the brilliant Annie Hinton), in a recliner, far stage right and proceeds to tell mom’s story. Naively, she expects mom to remain tacit. Wrong.

Durwood Murray and Samantha Ginn in “Well” (Photos by Daren Scott)

Ann, who has been physically ailing most of her life, refuses to accept her daughter’s account of truth, makes corrections, and battles ensue, fleshed out by others who play an assortment of characters from the past (Adam Cuppy, Cashae Monya, Durwood Murray and Tiffany Tang).

The truth of the matter is that Lisa wants Mom to be well, as well as she, Lisa, is; all the while realizing that it cannot be. It’s the eternal mother/daughter paradigm, the eternal family paradigm: few who were there at the same time in the same place remember an identical reality.

Samantha Ginn as Lisa and Annie Hinton as Ann in “Well”

There will always be amendments. Furthermore, one may possess all the personal power and strength in the world, but fail to heal oneself.

Kron’s journey in “Well” is at least as perilous as that she took in “2.5 Minute Ride,” in which she attempts to limn her beloved father.

The two works, written a decade apart, make a courageous duet, bravely produced in alternating repertory (both may be seen on Saturday or Sunday) by Diversionary Theatre. See one or both and you will be rewarded.

One of our nation’s great lesbian writers and a founder of the New York theater collective Five Lesbian Brothers, Kron went on to great success with the autobiographical plays such as “101 Humiliating Stories” and with the musical, “Fun Home,” which received multiple 2016 Tony Awards, including best original score, shared with Jeanine Tesori.

Kron is recipient of the 2017 Kleban Prize of $100,000 for most promising musical theater librettist.

—Charlene Baldridge has been writing about the arts since 1979. Follow her blog at charlenecriticism.blogspot.com or reach her at charb81@gmail.com.

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