Last night I saw Lisa Kron's play "Well" - a play on Broadway about a Jewish girl growing up in Lansing, Michigain whose mother believes in two things: Allergies and racial integration. The piece was deeply funny - especially the part of her mother, played on stage by a woman seated on a Lazy-boy recliner. But more important than the inventive staging of what is basically a one woman memoir based show was the central idea -- the "through line" of the piece - Kron is conveying to her audience that we should not be talking about identities as if they are clothing. She first claims that people think that 'being Jewish in the Midwest is like being Christian with a layer of Jewish on top" then she says people think that 'being Black is like being White with a layer of Black on top' and then she says being sick is like 'being well with a layer of sick on top.'
The result of her symbolic layering of these identities is that she challenges us to think about the origins of prejudice - not by calling attention to acts of racial and religious prejudice - but by calling attention to the natural prejudice that evolves around how we discuss our health, around being 'well' - i.e. if we feel sick, we prejudice those who are well, if we feel well, we prejudice those who are sick. By starting with that which all humans share -anxiety around the 'am I sick?' / 'am i well?' question, Kron has created a powerfully humanistic piece of theater. Between Doubt, Well, and Bridges & Tunnel, Broadway is starting to feel like the theater world again.