Cleveland Play House's Well Stars Denny Dillon as "Mom," March 3-26

News   Cleveland Play House's Well Stars Denny Dillon as "Mom," March 3-26 Broadway isn't the only place audiences will be dipping into Well, writer-actress Lisa Kron's frisky theatrical work about wellness, community and the tension between adult children and their parents.

Cleveland Play House stages a resident production of the work March 3-26, concurrent with the first weeks of the Broadway production. (Broadway previews begin at the Longacre Theatre March 10.)

Cleveland Play House's new artistic director Michael Bloom directs the Ohio production, in which an actress (Alicia Roper) will play Lisa Kron, who narrates her own meta-theatrical seriocomic play.

At the Play House's Drury Theatre, "Kron's personal story of her mother-daughter relationship and the resulting family dynamics — in sickness and in health," will star actress-comedienne Denny Dillon ("Saturday Night Live," Broadway's My Own and Only) as Lisa's mother, Ann Kron, a role that earned Jayne Houdyshell an Obie Award during Well's premiere at The Public Theater in 2004. Houdyshell plays it on Broadway.

On Broadway, Kron will play herself and Leigh Silverman will stage the play, in which mom Ann goes off script and threatens to sabotage Lisa's play.

Bloom told Playbill.com that he read the play and fell in love with it. Part of his pitch to Kron's agent was that the unconventional work would not likely tour to Cleveland in the future and that a limited resident not-for-profit production wouldn't threaten business for the future commercial producers. The Ohio run will mark the first time an actress other than Lisa Kron has played the role of "Lisa Kron," and will be a valuable test to see how the play works minus the charming performance of Kron and her creative colleagues.

"I couldn't think of a play better suited to Cleveland — The Cleveland Clinic is practically next door," Bloom said. "For Cleveland the issues of wellness and community are really potent. This is the first play I read when I got here and halfway though it I said, 'We have to do this.'"

Like critics and audiences before him, Bloom embraced the play's "unusual, stylized" quality "that is actually accessible to a mainstream audience."

Bloom will use Case Western University MFA acting students for some ensemble roles. In the script, they are "hired" by Lisa to help tell the story.

The Ohio cast includes Zandy Hartig, Jason Miller, Bailey Varness and Lelund Durond Thompson.

The creative team for the Cleveland Play House production includes Michael Raiford (scenic designer), Jennifer Caprio (costume designer), David Nancarrow (lighting designer) and James C. Swonger (sound designer).

Cleveland Play House's Well was announced prior to the official confirmation of the Broadway run. The Broadway staging opens March 30, four days after the closing of the separate Cleveland run.

For more information about CPH, one of America's oldest resident theatres, visit www.clevelandplayhouse.com.

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Here's how Cleveland Play House bills the play: "A one-act comedy that is equal parts moving, absurd and hilarious, Well tells the story of Lisa Kron's struggle to write a play about, and come to terms with, her mother — and herself. She'd love to tell you all about it, but Mom's right there on stage with her and, of course, chimes in to present the 'correct' version of Lisa's stories. Well is a story about a woman's drive to raise her family and stay sane while struggling to make a difference in the world."

Sometimes called "a solo show with other people," Well explores how Lisa suffered from allergies as a child, the time she spent in the hospital, her mother's ability to heal a changing neighborhood in Lansing, Michigan in the 1970s despite her inability to heal herself, and finally, her complex relationship with her mother.

"While her intention is to narrate her memoirs, she seems unable to do so as a supporting cast comprising two men and two women, playing various characters, interrupt, critique the script and tangentially detour Lisa, creating a comedic coup d'etat of sorts that results in laugh-out-loud deconstructed theatre," according to Play House notes.

Opening is March 8. Performances continue to March 26.

For more information, call (216) 795-7000, ext. 4, or visit www.clevelandplayhouse.com.

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Founded in 1915, The Cleveland Play House is America's first permanently established professional theatre. Over the past 88 years, more than 11 million people have attended The Cleveland Play House's 1,300 productions — 100 of which were American and/or world premieres. At 300,000 square feet, the Philip Johnson-designed Cleveland Play House complex houses five performance spaces making it the largest regional theatre complex in the country.