Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut and the Berkshires

2.5 Minute Ride
Hartford Stage
Review by Fred Sokol

Also see Fred's recent review of Sandra

Lena Kaminsky
Photo by T. Charles Erickson
Hartford Stage's production of Lisa Kron's 2.5 Minute Ride is a sometimes moving and sometimes comic one-woman memoir-like piece. La Jolla Playhouse first presented the play in 1996 and the Public Theater in New York staged it in 1999. Actress Lena Kaminsky, detailed and convincing, now plays the title character for 80 or so successive minutes in Hartford through June 23.

Scenic designer Judy Gallen has piled boxes upon boxes to comprise the background for Lisa as she begins to talk. Upon occasion, she sits in a chair. She activates a carousel slide projector, but only colored squares appear on a screen of sorts. Lisa speaks as if she sees images which beg for her verbal description. She references a trip her family would take each year from Lansing, Michigan, to Cedar Point amusement park in Ohio and also talks of going to Auschwitz with her father. The car ride to that site makes for a brief story in itself. It was there that Lisa's grandparents were thought to have perished as victims of the Holocaust.

Her father Walter survived Hitler's purges since he was fortunate, through the Kindertransport, to escape Germany. He did return to that country at a later point to question prisoners of war. Walter, however, would never again see his parents. The play jumps from one recollection to another: Lisa and Walter ride a roller coaster together even if he has taken a pill to ward of a potential heart attack. Besides being physically frail, he is almost blind and Lisa wonders if the coaster adventure will kill him. She adores him and one gathers that Walter was a soulful and giving human being. The scripting effectively gives the audience a sense of this man who had his share of heartbreak during his lifetime.

Ultimately, Lisa goes to a crematorium where she had thought she might not have an emotional response. However, she was quite horrified and Kron provides unique descriptive language to fully explicate.

The plot also alludes to Lisa's brother's Brooklyn wedding. He met his future wife through AOL and a chat room. Lisa mentions her own lesbianism but this does not become a focus. The production leads one to picture the many vignettes (remember that all you actually see are projected colored squares) and to imagine the rest. It is a show that is both informational and lively.

Zöe Golub-Sass directs most adept Lena Kaminsky, who is in motion virtually all of the time. Kaminsky is not extremist in her performance so it isn't surprising that the Hartford Stage rendering of the play never verges on the sentimental. She's impressive when delivering lighter sequences, as she conjures up events of the past. Another director might have gone for greater absolutes when it comes to comedy and tragedy. Golub-Sass and Kaminsky present a more nuanced presentation which might very well leave more for an observer to consider and ponder. The performance feels authentic and honest throughout and fortunately avoids exaggeration. If it is not overly intense and, if anything, somewhat toned down. The writer's narrative and excellent dialogue carry the day.

Kaminsky, consistent and highly skilled, facilitates some subtle rather than jarring changes. She has a welcome, friendly demeanor and moves fluently around the stage. She is an inviting performer who is casually dressed in jeans, courtesy of costume designer April Hickman. The script moves here and there often enough without the performer augmenting with over-the-top gesturing or expression. Rather, she wisely delivers through interpretation. Otherwise, one might be watching wrenching, too highly dramatized theatre. Lisa Kron has balanced gentle humor with serious import. Kaminsky, with an assist from Golub-Sass's direction, is seamless as she switches from moment to moment. If anything, the Hartford Stage production is just a bit understated, but favorably so.

2.5 Minute Ride runs through June 23, 2024, at Hartford Stage, 50 Church St., Hartford CT. For tickets and information, please call 860-527-5151 or visit