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New Jersey by Bob Rendell

The 2.5 Minute Ride: A Richly Rewarding Journey
with Lisa Kron

Also see Bob's reviews of Plaza Suite and The Electric Baby


Lisa Kron
The 2.5 Minute Ride is a 70 minute journey with Lisa Kron, its author and sole performer, that encompasses two, eventually three, family trips and much relevant personal and family history. Although it deals with pain and tragedy, it is exhilarating in its celebration of the resilience of the human spirit. It is also downright funny in its accounts of the foibles of family members and others.

When The 2.5 Minute Ride, Ms. Kron's second play, was produced in 1999, it instantly established the actress-comedienne as an outstanding playwright/monologist. Although it has since been performed by other actresses, and no doubt will continue to be, I cannot overemphasize how rewarding and unique it is to be able to see it performed by Kron. Of course, it is a performance, and she is an actress playing a stage version of herself. However, it is difficult to conceive of anyone else conveying such a complete understanding of the nuisance of every word that she has written. Every pause, gesture and intonation, has discernible meaning. Kron makes us believe that these stories are important to her, and that it is important to her that we understand exactly what she has to say.

Kron's monologue is in the form of a lecture and slide show. However, as she clicks the remote control to operate the unseen projector, blank rectangles are projected onto the wall of the minimal set. Kron describes the images, but it is left to our imaginations to visualize them.

Kron intermingles accounts of two family trips which provide the sharpest of contrasts. At the center of both stories is her beloved father who escaped death in the Holocaust when, at the age of fifteen, he was able to flee Poland by way of the Kindertransport operation.

The first trip is the annual summer family outing in which a now largely elderly group would journey from her parents' house in Lansing, Michigan, to the storied Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio. Her elderly father insisted on riding on a new wooden roller coaster bearing the encomium "Mean Streak" despite having to take a nitroglycerin tablet before riding. It is this roller coaster ride that is described by the play's title.

The second trip was a 1996 one to Poland to visit the town where her father was raised and the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp where his parents were exterminated. On both trips, Kron was accompanied by her then long-term partner Pat (Margaret). Much of the humor anent the Cedar Point outing is in the skewered reaction of Kron's gay friends to the vibe of the park and its patrons.

The third trip is one made to the Seaview Jewish Center, a synagogue in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn. Kron is there for the wedding of her brother David to Shoshi, an Orthodox Jewish woman whom he met via a Jewish online dating service after years cocooned in his parents' house. Although she and her partner had gone expecting to laugh at the ritual and its accoutrements, Kron ended up being moved by the event. It is not merely an afterthought.

Kron's sexuality plays a prominent role in her monologue. Given her central thematic focus on her father, this might be seen as a subject crucial to her which is not central to this particular play. Kron is a proud and active member of both the LGBT community and the Jewish community, and she is letting us know blithely and without rancor that there is no dichotomy whatsoever in that.

Kron's father is the embodiment of the resiliency and capacity for living that extraordinarily was the norm among the survivors of the Holocaust. As her play ricochets between Auschwitz and Cedar Point, it sometimes takes a second or two to acclimate ourselves as to where we are. I think that this further illustrates mankind's adaptability and resilience in the face of the uncertainty and swift changes of fortune to which we are subject.

I did find myself distracted by trying to put a timeline on the events depicted here. More than a decade after its premiere, it can be said that The 2.5 Minute Ride has attained longevity among American stage literature. Thus, a clearer time structure (if only in the program listing of its settings) would be useful.

Mark Brokaw's direction is effective and unobtrusive. Kron's performance seems to raise from inside of herself. It would be na´ve not to think that Brokaw has pulled off the job without leaving any fingerprints. Like any good storyteller worth his salt, Kron embellishes and manipulates her stories to achieve maximum effect. However, her description of a cinema audience's response to the 1994 movie version of Little Woman is more appropriate to stand-up comedy than it is to a play/monologue.

The 2.5 Minute Ride is one well worth taking.

The 2.5 Minute Ride continues performances (Evenings: Wednesday 7 pm; Thursday - Saturday 8pm/ Matinees: Wed. 1 pm; Sat. & Sun. 3 pm) through May 12, 2013, at the Two River Theatre Company, Joan and Robert Rechnitz Theatre, 21 Bridge Ave., Red Bank 07701; Box Office: 732-345-1400 / online: www.trtc.org.


Photo: T. Charles Erickson


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- Bob Rendell



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