After attending a recent performance of the Barksdale Theatre production of “Well,” it's easy to understand the disconnect between critical acclaim and ticket sales. The play is both interesting and meaningful, but so irreverent to theatrical conventions that theatergoers of more traditional taste may find it difficult.
“Well” begins with Lisa Kron (Jenny Hundley), a playwright and actress informing the audience that this production is “a multicharacter theatrical exploration of issues of health and illness both in the individual and in a community.” She repeatedly insists that it has nothing to do with the relationship she has with her mother. And so the play then of course delves into the relationship between Lisa and her mother, Ann (Jody Smith Strickler), alternating between following the supposed story of the play and then breaking the narrative to interact with the playwright, her mother and the actors. The play is about healing — medically, socially and personally — and happens as much within the story as without.
Hundley uses her great comedic skills to guide the show, but is less successful when distinguishing relationships between the characters and the actors as themselves. Especially funny is the recounting of an embarrassing moment in middle school in which she arrives at school dressed like Laura Ingles Wilder.
Four ensemble actors (Joshua Boone, Molly Hood, Katrinah Carol Lewis and Steve Perigard) deftly pop in and out of various roles and playing themselves as they're won over by Strickler's impeccable Ann.
“Well” is the kind of play that audiences in Richmond should want to see. It challenges the mind without challenging one's morality.
“Well” runs through May 17 at the Barksdale Theatre at Willow Lawn. Tickets are $15-$38. Call 282-2620 or visit www.barksdalerichmond.org.