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A CurtainUp Review
2.5 Minute Ride
By Elyse Sommer
The somber moments of the 70-minute ride she takes us on are more affecting than the comic anecdotes which at times smack of the too familiar and obvious. However, Ms. Kron's novel use of a slide show to frame her three-pronged family narrative outweighs the bumps in 2.5 Minute Ride.
As the lights dim we hear the sound of a slide projector forwarding to the next image. When the lights go up we see Lisa -- short auburn hair cut in a no-nonsense easy care style, a maroon pants suit that hides an ample distinctly unshowbiz body. "Clicker" and laser pointer in hand she seagues from the Midwest, to Eastern Europe and, briefly, to Brooklyn. Don't expect to actually see any of the people she talks about. The screen that laser pointer traverses is blank.
A clever, multi-purpose contrivance that blank screen. For starters it warms up the audience and makes them laugh. For another it turns the proverbial wisdom of a picture being worth a thousand words on its head. In this case the absent images poignantly bring home to us the blanks left by relations abruptly cut from so many family trees. The blanks also turn passive viewers into active participants either imagining what the Kron clan looks like or substituting people from their own memory books. Finally, the click-click-click from blank screen to blank screen parallels the back and forth shift and connection between three key events:
First there's the Kron family's annual visits to an amusement park near their Midwestern home. Its main attractions are the food concessions. For her frail septuagenarian father, the main attraction is the 2.5 minute a roller coaster ride of the title. His insistence on ignoring the warning that "The Mean Streak" should not be ridden by people with heart trouble or diabetes is, like the blank screen a symbol of his enduring need to prove once again his ability to navigate the sharp and dangerous corners of his youth.
Next is Lisa's return to Auschwitz with her father to fill in the blanks of the tragedy of his parents' and her grandparents' death. This is the most emotional ride of the piece. It's not a new story but like all such stories it is as always tragically new -- unlike comedy shtick like Mom Kron's compulsive accumulation of egg cartons and plays on words like "arrestees-Orestes."(In fairness, to the author, this did get loud guffaws from the audience).
Finally there's the wedding of Lisa's brother to Shoshi Rivkin whom he met in an America On-Line Jewish singles chat room and marries in a ceremony at the Seaview Jewish Center in the Canarsie section of a Brooklyn. This third element of the overall story nicely translates the sad tears shed by the narrator at Auschwitz into the happy tears of watching love's power to continue the life of a Jewish family despite having one of its family tree's limbs abruptly cut off.
Director Mark Brokaw is to be commended for his almost invisible guidance. Allen Moyer's set and Kenneth Posner's lighting are also effectively minimalist. One can't help wondering about the need for a costume design credit, since Ms. Kron's single and very simple pants outfit looks fresh off the hanger of her own closet.
Despite the weakness of some of the Michigan-Ohio humor, 2.5 Minute Ride marks a promising first effort into the realm of serio-comedy. It brings to mind Julia Sweeney's God Says Ha of a few seasons ago. The two playwright-performers resemble each other somewhat physically and Sweeney, like Kron, made a solo play out of a heavy subject. God Says Ha was unwisely booked into a Broadway house from which it disappeared with the speed of the roller coaster ride in 2.5 Minute Ride. Ms. Kron's funny-sad playlet is wisely making its New York debut within the more apt and nourishing environment of a small Off-Broadway stage where it stands a good chance to extend its limited run and move on to other regional productions.