This `Ride' has more ups than downs

Review: Center Stage's one-woman show about a Holocaust survivor is both jarring and comic.

May 19, 2000|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,SUN THEATER CRITIC

"2.5 Minute Ride," Lisa Kron's one-woman show about her father, a Holocaust survivor, is structured around two central concepts: 1) the link between tragedy and comedy, and 2) the roller coaster-like ups and downs of life.

Neither notion is novel, but Kron uses both to considerable theatrical effect in her show, the final offering in the Center Stage season. And yet, perhaps because of the fragmentary nature of the piece, in the end there is a lack of resolution.

In the 70-minute play, directed by Mark Brokaw, Kron tells us she initially wanted to make a videotape about her father. The form proved unsatisfactory, however, and she represents this shortcoming through the repeated comic device of narrating a slide show in which all the slides are blank.

These blank slides also serve another purpose: They allow us to imagine our own images instead of being limited to those she might show. When Kron aims her red illuminated pointer to the empty screen while describing a family scene, we can picture our family there instead.

Later, when she accompanies her father to Auschwitz, where his parents died, the blank projections are a way to indicate things too horrible to picture. They're also a way to avoid showing pictures that, as Kron points out, have become so familiar from documentaries and movies like "Schindler's List" that they may have lost some of their impact.

What comes through with undeniable clarity is her profound love for her father. He is a remarkable man who -- orphaned by Hitler and now legally blind, hard of hearing, diabetic and suffering from a heart condition -- has great empathy for his fellow man and an amazing lack of self-pity. Nor has he lost his ability to enjoy life, as evidenced by his passion for roller coasters, one of which is responsible for the play's title.

The playwright/performer interweaves her trip to Auschwitz with her Midwestern family's annual trek to an Ohio amusement park and with her brother's Orthodox Jewish wedding to a woman he met on the Internet. Kron is an affable performer with an easygoing manner that lends itself to storytelling and humor. But the sections about her brother are thinner than the rest of the evening, causing the strong emotion the wedding eventually evokes in her to seem narratively convenient, rather than heartfelt.

The juxtapositions Kron sets up in "2.5 Minute Ride" can be startlingly jarring as well as comic, and much of the piece is emotionally absorbing. But she's also attempting something deeper -- capturing and holding onto the past. Much more difficult and possibly elusive, it's a goal she approaches, but never quite achieves. Just as she feared, it is almost as if too many elements of her family's history have slipped through her fingers.

`2.5 Minute Ride'

Where: Center Stage, Head Theater, 700 N. Calvert St.

When: 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, May 23 and June 13; 7: 30 p.m. most Sundays; matinees at 2 p.m. Sundays and June 3 and 10, 1 p. m. May 24. Through June 18 Tickets: $24-$29

Call: 410-332-0033

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