“Well” – 2nd viewing

Gayle Steigerwald and Deb Sargent in “Well”Last night, I went to the Phoenix Theatre to see “Well,” by Lisa Kron a second time. 

The first time I saw it, on opening night, it was harshly, almost unbearably, intense.  It is still intense, but it has…well, “mellowed” is not quite the right word, but something like that.  It is smoother, of course (don’t all shows get smoother over the course of their run?) but it also feels…roomier. 

There are so many layers to this show!

If it were a book, I bet every book club in town would be scrounging for copies.  It is very “discussable.”

If I were in such a club, I would want to talk about what sometimes happens when healthy people think about sick people: the healthy people might feel some sympathy, but sometimes all they really do is slip the idea of the other person’s sickness on over their own wellness.   They interpret and judge the other person in terms of what they would be able to do or feel or see if they were the sick person, rather than respecting the sick person’s different, but equally valid, experience for what it is.  

In other words, they ask, as Lisa does of her mother, “Why can’t you be like me and make yourself well?”

And one of the many things I love about this play is Lisa herself is not well, not in every sense of the word.  The other characters help her see that getting “well” is not a simple matter.  It may not even be the right goal.

Yeah.  I love this show.

Afterwards, I got to meet Danny Russel, the actor who plays, among other roles, the lovable jack-in-the-box of a nurse.  I had enjoyed his portrayal anyway, but hearing him talk a little bit about how he had developed that character made me realize that the exaggeration of all of the characters in the allergy clinic scenes feels right because they are Lisa’s memory of what the allergy clinic was like.

I also got to talk with Deb Sargent (Lisa) and Gayle Steigerwald (Lisa’s mother, Ann) over dinner afterwards.   Some day I would like to officially interview each of them about their work, but last night I said I wasn’t planning to write about our conversation, so I won’t.  Except to say that it was a treat to hear them discuss their characters and the processes they had used to develop them, and their experiences of the show so far.  They are both such TALENTED people, thoughtful and creative and gracious and humble and…

 Well, I didn’t promise anyone that I wouldn’t gush.

Adrienne Reiswerg was with us, and her friend, Kurt Owens, joined us after his rehearsal for “Black Gold” let out.  I was already planning to see that show because it is a new play, which is something that always interests me, but I was also intrigued by what Owens said about it.  It sounds as if it will be hilarious!  It opens next weekend on the Phoenix’ main stage.  Bryan Fonseca is directing, and Owens plays a gazillion different characters.  I won’t be able to see it opening weekend, but I am looking forward to seeing it later in the run.

There are only three more chances to see “Well” on the Frank and Katrina Basile stage at the Phoenix.  Please call 635-PLAY for reservations.  If you go see it, too, I would love to hear what you think of it!

Hope Baugh – www.indytheatrehabit.com 

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