LEWISTON – Lisa is going to present a nice little play at The Public Theatre about her family, about growing up and about how she cured her allergies.

It’s all nicely under control – but there’s her mother who’s watching the play in a housedress from her onstage living room. And she keeps interrupting. She offers snacks to the audience and keeps interjecting her own version of Lisa’s carefully constructed story.

That’s a thumbnail sketch of what to expect in TPT’s Maine premiere production of “Well,” which opens Friday, March 7, and runs through March 16.

“I love this play’s ability to make you laugh and think at the same time,” said Janet Mitchko, who directs the play. “We watch a seemingly ‘together’ woman pushed out of her comfort zone by things she can’t control – one of those things being her mother.”

Lisa sets out on a complex exploration of assumptions about whether we are responsible for our own illnesses. Her earnest attempt to tell us her story spirals into a hilarious, mind-bending comedic debacle as she loses control of her autobiography.

Lisa, Mitchko explained, is playwright Lisa Kron, who wrote the show as a kind of memoir that spotlights an author’s slippery grasp on personal recall.

Kron appeared as herself when her play was first presented in New York in 2004. It ran on Broadway in 2006 and Kron earned a best actress Tony nomination.

“It’s a very original play,” Mitchko said. “It has a lot of surprises.”

Kron has described her play as a “solo show with other people in it.” In “Well,” Lisa has hired a group of actors. They are supposed to help her tell us about her extended stay in a Chicago allergy clinic and her experiences in a mixed-race neighborhood in Lansing, Mich., in the 1960s. But the actors decide they like Lisa’s mother’s versions of events better than Lisa’s.

New York-based actress Sara Schabach plays Lisa. The role of her irascible mother is played by Mary Baird. TPT audiences may remember Baird in her delightful comic characterization several years ago as Madame Arcati in “Blithe Spirit.” Baird’s career includes acting on Broadway and Off-Broadway, as well as performing in regional theaters throughout California.

The comic foursome playing wacky characters from Lisa’s life are Dale Place, Cherita Armstrong, John Hall and Denise Poirer. They play a doctor, patients, children and people in the neighborhood, including a 9-year-old brat who was the curse of Lisa’s grade-school life.

Place has appeared in TPT productions of “Lend Me a Tenor” and “Miss Witherspoon” and portrayed Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol.”

Armstrong appeared in TPT’s “The Old Settler,” and Poirer was in “Fuddy Meers” and “Marvin’s Room.” Hall is a newcomer to the The Public Theatre stage.

Mitchko said “Well” is an inspirational comedy that also has the ability to rearrange your understanding of the world.

“There’s a very profound message that slips in under the radar,” she said. It reminds us that life is messy and that real people and events never fit comfortably into the boxes we have for them.

She said men relate just as easily to this belief that we can control everything, only to have it all upset by parents “who live in an alternative reality.”

“This play is a lot like life. It’s for anyone who has parents,” Mitchko said.

The set for “Well” is designed by Jennifer Madigan. Costumes are by Christine McDowell and lighting by Jaime Grant.


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