"M" Is for the Misery of Closing: Well, Lisa Kron's Mom-Centered Comedy, Ends Broadway Run

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14 May 2006

Lisa Kron in <I>Well</I>.
Lisa Kron in Well.
Photo by Joan Marcus

A play about mom shouldn't close on Mother's Day, but the economic realities of Broadway are making Well — a comedy about an adult daughter connecting with her mother — shutter May 14.

The praised Broadway play by Lisa Kron will end its run just two days shy of the May 16 announcement of the Tony Awards nominations.

Observers expect it to be remembered by the nominators, possibly picking up a Best Play nod and almost definitely netting a Best Featured Actress in a Play nomination for Jayne Houdyshell's work as Kron's lumpy, lethargic mother.

Well will have played 23 previews and 53 performances at the Longacre Theatre.

Although it opened to some of the best reviews for any play this season, Well—bereft of a name actor, star playwright or Pulitzer Prize (such as the hit play Doubt has)—struggled to find an audience. Audiences in recent weeks hovered around one third capacity.



The Broadway cast also included Daniel Breaker, Saidah Arrika Ekulona, John Hoffman and Christina Kirk.

The play is expected to have a future regional life, with other actresses playing the role of Lisa Kron. Cleveland Play House already staged its own version earlier this year, in a special arrangement separate from the Broadway run.

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The comedy about mothers, daughters, health, wellness, community, racism and more was something of a mystery when it comes to figuring out how to sell it to the public, producer Elizabeth Ireland McCann told Playbill.com.

She admitted in recent weeks that Well — which has audiences laughing and crying (and some baffled by its self-deprecating uniqueness) — is hard to define.

How do you pigeonhole something that is singular? How do you explain that Lisa Kron is playing herself in what she bills (as she reads note cards on stage) a "theatrical exploration"? And what is to be made of that doughy woman she calls her mother, who wallows in a La-Z-Boy stage left?

"That is, I think, always a bit of problem with Well…it's a very hard play to describe," McCann said in the days following a positive review in The Times, which usually results in a spike in ticket sales. There was indeed a post-review box office spark, she said, but it clearly was not wildfire, as office reports now indicate.

Well began at The Public Theater downtown in 2004, where it also got solid reviews before playing a 2005 run at American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, where it was further refined.

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Previews began at the Longacre Theatre March 10. Leigh Silverman (Off-Broadway's Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, Jump/Cut, Oedipus at Palm Springs) directs Well, as she has previous engagements of the presentational, highly theatrical work — a seriocomic investigation about wellness and the mystery of parent/adult child relationships.

Well is produced by Elizabeth Ireland McCann, Scott Rudin, Boyett Ostar Productions, True Love Productions, Terry Allen Kramer, Roger Berlind, Carole Shorenstein Hays, John Dias, Joey Parnes (executive producer) in association with Larry Hirschhorn and The Public Theater and The American Conservatory Theater.

The Well creative team also includes Tony Walton (scenic design), Miranda Hoffman (costume design), Christopher Akerlind (lighting design), John Gromada (original music and sound design), Tom Watson (hair and wig design), Susie Cordon (production stage manager) and Allison Sommer (stage manager).

Cindy Katz, Randy Danson, Donnetta Lavinia Grays, Colman Domingo and Joel Van Liew are also part of the company.

Obie Award winners Lisa Kron and Jayne Houdyshell reprise the roles they created when Well had its premiere at The Public Theater in 2004. They played a subsequent 2005 run at American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco.

Visit www.wellonbroadway.com.