No theatrical season can call itself complete without a new play about a weird mother. This week there are two, and not surprisingly, they bear certain family resemblances. Both have monosyllabic titles, both contain elements of fantasy, both are graced with splendid performances by the actresses who play the ladies in question–and neither is any good, though one is a good deal more ambitious than the other….
It’s a bit more than a joke to say that a performance artist is a standup comic who got a grant. Not only is Ms. Kron’s onstage manner exceedingly nightclubby, right down to the ingratiating smirks she fires off at the audience every half-minute or so, but the program reveals that she got quite a few grants in support of the writing and production of “Well.” Alas, nobody bothered to teach her how to transform a monologue into a play….
Except for Jayne Houdyshell’s performance, I didn’t like anything about “Well.” (I didn’t laugh once.) Still, I freely admit that as awful as it is, it’s more interesting than David Marshall Grant’s “Pen,” the latest in Playwrights Horizons’ fast-growing string of excessively similar plays about family life. Here we get such staples of kitchen-sink dramaturgy as the vinegar-tongued, self-pitying mother (J. Smith-Cameron) whom multiple sclerosis has put in a wheelchair, the whiny ex-husband (Reed Birney) who just happens to be a shrink, the angry young teenage son (Dan McCabe) whose shoplifting of Christmas presents is a cry for help…but must I go on? The only thing missing is a working stove…
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