WHAT: “Well”

WHERE: The Public Theatre at Lisbon and Maple streets in Lewiston

WHEN: at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 13; at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 14-15; and at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 16

TICKETS: $18 for adults, $16 for seniors and students; $14 group rate for 10 or more. Call 782-3200.

belly laughs • slapstick • insights • unique theatrical concept Public Theatre gives well-rounded performance

LEWISTON – Well done.

Simply said, the current production of “Well” by The Public Theatre is good entertainment. It is a richly satisfying mix of comedy and drama, and both are solidly rooted in real life.

“Well” is something different, and that’s what TPT does so well.

There are plenty of belly laughs and some slapstick comedy, and an unexpected dose of valuable insight into how people look at and deal with “illness” and “wellness.”

The opening night audience last Friday showed ample appreciation for this unusual play and for the excellent work of the show’s six actors.

This play is not a roll-in-the-aisles type of comedy. It helps to know that “Well” is presented through a very unusual and interesting theatrical concept. The author calls it a solo show with other people in it.

As the audience enters, they see that Lisa’s mom is already on stage.

She is sound asleep in her recliner in the middle of her homey apartment, which occupies one half of the stage. The other half is a stylized minimal set reminiscent of 1960s TV’s “Laugh-In” wall. As needed, it becomes corridors of “the allergy unit” and rooms or the windows of the integrated neighborhood’s homes.

Sara Schabach delivers a memorable debut at TPT as Lisa Kron, the playwright who is determined to put on a serious “theatrical exploration” about her family, growing up and how she was cured of allergies. >>>Her attempt, using actors she hired, dissolves before our eyes as characters come up with conflicting versions of Lisa’s autobiographical play. By the end, confusion reigns and the actors step out of their stage roles to assert their influence over the events.

Mary Baird’s excellent portrayal of Lisa’s real-life mom, >>>Ann Kron, takes us from glimpses of a comically lovable old lady offering snacks to the audience to a tough organizer who, in her younger days, could change lives and whole neighborhoods of Lansing, Mich.

Focus changes rapidly as Lisa presents her story. Mom’s interruptions and the actors’ gradual shift of attention and affection to her are delightful to watch.

Lisa’s frustration and loss of control accelerate throughout the show, but that’s when we see her mother’s inner strength emerge.

Baird and Schabach are on stage throughout the entire play.

Many of the laughs come from familiar mother-daughter situations. Then there’s the surreal demonic appearance in Lisa’s memory of Lori Jones, the 9-year-old girl who tormented her throughout third grade. Cherita Armstrong’s whirlwind rendering of the bratty kid, a talkative allergy patient and a couple of other incarnations call for totally different approaches. She does all of them very well.

John Hall plays a playground kid, as well as a beer-fueled denizen of the neighborhood apartment building, an organizer and a clinic nurse.

Denise Poirier portrays a quirky, often gloomy allergy patient.

Dale Place has become a familiar and welcome actor on the TPT stage. This time, he plays a rather gratingly ingratiating head nurse in the clinic as well as a neighborhood resident.

The “hired actors” tackle a wide variety of roles and they succeed all around. The multilayered demands of those roles come through very effectively, thanks to the work of director Janet Mitchko.

“Well” is presented with no intermission.

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