4/24: Ohio to Auschwitz, in 2.5 Minutes

lisa-kron-1-500x333Playwright Lisa Kron performs her one woman show 2.5 MINUTE RIDE, opening this weekend at Two River Theater. (Photo by T. Charles Erickson)

In the hands of its creator, it’s a thrill ride unlike any other; a midway attraction that clatters up a rollercoaster track in Ohio’s Cedar Point amusement park — and hurtles down the other side on a grim pilgrimage to the concentration camps at Auschwitz.

Although it lasts a bit longer than its title suggests, 2.5 Minute Ride is an experience that’s more of a trip through time than space — a “funny, complex meditation on tragedy, grief and family” that unfolds exclusively through the spoken word performance of Lisa Kron, the play’s sole cast member and the author who netted an Obie Award during its inaugural Ride in 1999.

Returning to the one-woman show for the first time in five years — and reuniting with Mark Brokaw, who directed that 1999 production at NYC’s Public Theater — Kron comes to Two River Theater for a new staging that opens this weekend and continues through the second week in May. Going up inside the mainstage Rechnitz Theater at the Bridge Avenue artspace, it’s a Ride that also re-teams the Tony nominee with Two River Theater Company artistic director John Dias, who co-produced the Broadway production of her play Well in 2010.

“I’ve performed this show hundreds of times, and in all kinds of theaters — tiny rooms, huge prosceniums, thrust stages and black boxes,” explains the playwright who’s also performed excerpts from the piece at Sundance Theater Lab and other venues. “All I really need is a chair and a stool, plus some lighting and sound cues.”

The playwright will be getting more than just that standard-issue stool, however, as joining her for the Red Bank ride will be another veteran of the Public — award winning scenic designer Allen Moyer, whose makeover of the Rechnitz space is described by Kron as “a subtle design that’s made to look like a theater set within a theater set.”

At the heart of the experience will be the stories of Kron’s social activist mother Ann — who built a family ritual around those annual treks to Cedar Point — and her father Walter, who despite some serious health issues undertook a sojourn to the sites where his own parents were murdered during the second world war. The parallel storylines switch back and forth in a way that, the playwright notes, “does not tell you when to laugh and when to be solemn.”

“I hadn’t really intended to become a writer — I guess that I sort of began by telling funny anecdotes,” says the Michigan native, a co-founder of the New York-based Five Lesbian Brothers theatrical company. “I was not interested then in telling my own personal story, but it occurred to me that I have two parents whose lives intersected with major events in history.”

“You can say that I have a very deep groove with this show by now,” says Kron of the work that’s been performed by several other actors, and even translated into Japanese. “As a rule I don’t go to see (other productions) — it’s an unsettling experience to me not as a person, but as a playwright.”

With a high-profile new production now up and running, Kron has lost none of her proprietary passion for the signature stage work that has helped her “become a better actor because of it — and the pleasure of it is that it feels brand new every time, like an ongoing conversation with the audience.”

Playing in previews through April 25 and opening Saturday, April 26 (sold out), 2.5 Minute Ride continues at Two River Theater through May 12. Tickets (ranging from $20 to $65 each) and full schedule details can be reserved right here.