Fourteen years after Lisa Kron’s award-winning solo show – 2.5 MINUTE RIDE – debuted in New York, the monologue/play has lost none of its impact…and may be even more resonant in light of maturing perspectives (on the part of the creator and the reviewer). What was powerful AND funny back then has only deepened, as evidenced by the writer/performer’s moving return to the material for Two River Theater Company in Red Bank, NJ.
Kron is an exceptional storyteller, here illuminating the world in which her father (a man sent away from Germany as a boy by parents who were later killed in the Holocaust) and her family exists at that point in time (the script has not been “updated”). She masterfully connects the seemingly unrelated stories of her family’s annual trips to an Ohio amusement park (the length of a roller coaster ride provides the play’s title), her brother’s unique path to getting married and, most importantly, her trip accompanying her father to the concentration camp at Auschwitz. In doing so, she shows the journey she (and her family) has taken toward varying states of understanding, acceptance and (maybe) enlightenment.
The 90-minute performance is all about Kron and her ability to share a story. Beautifully guided by director Mark Brokaw (who also helmed that first production in 1999), she is exquisitely nuanced and subtle. She uses words with skill. She plays the pauses and the pacing like a musician riffing their way through a well-loved song.
This is not all dour remembrance, however. Humor is expressed with a natural delivery and expression that suggests we were silly to not expect it. Her descriptions are sardonic and made with pin-point accuracy. More dramatic emotions are startlingly honest and fresh (considering this is a story she’s told OFTEN). There is rarely an ounce of over-doing anything. AND, when the story becomes too traumatic for the character, Kron’s shift in attitude/posture/tone is so true in the way she plays it that it seems she’s broken character and stepped away from the script to confide in the audience in a new way (and I’ve seen it before).
Ok, so she’s not totally alone on stage. Philip Rosenberg’s lighting design is a brilliantly fluid and effective co-star. His work affects the mood and atmosphere, as well as the pace and the flow of the piece. Allen Moyer’s minimal scenic design is nonetheless a perfect partner to Rosenberg’s lighting in creating location and space.
Through all of this, Kron and Two River Theater return (in a way) to the origins of theatre: someone standing up to tell a story in front of spectators that might shed a little light on the human condition.
2.5 MINUTE RIDE
by Lisa Kron
Directed by Mark Brokaw
April 20 – May 12, 2012
Two River Theater Company
21 Bridge Avenue
Red Bank, NJ