Profile Theatre’s commitment to producing plays by women and people of color continues this month, in a new double season focused on playwrights Anna Deavere Smith and Lisa Kron. First up: Kron’s 2.5 Minute Ride, an autobiographical solo show that packs volumes into 75 minutes with Kron stand-in Lisa (Allison Mickelsen, last seen as an Alison Bechdel proxy in another autobiographical show, Portland Center Stage’s Fun Home).
Lisa’s a bundle of nerves, someone who talks her way convulsively through moments of discomfort. In a free-wheeling monologue that covers the idiosyncrasies of the Midwest (“Health food in the Midwest is anything in a pita”) and two family trips—one to Sandusky, Ohio’s Cedar Point amusement park, the other to Auschwitz—Lisa is a friendly Virgil shepherding us through her attempts to understand her father, a Holocaust survivor and roller coaster enthusiast.
Though its central metaphor feels forced at times, Kron’s script contains no didactic bludgeoning or gratuitous accounts of violence. Instead, her seemingly breezy treatment allows for an oblique, somewhat shielded entry into trauma. While there’s no way to capture individual suffering with complete accuracy in any work of art, it’s to Kron’s credit that her script prompts examination of trauma less through what’s said than through silence. “You all already know what this looks like, right?” she says, recounting the trip to Auschwitz with her father. “You’ve seen these images before. You don’t need me to describe this to you.”
She’s right. We can fill in the details, and the play trusts us to do just that. As Mickelsen’s subsequent, slow-burning pause elapsed, I thought back to all those images, all those stories, all those Holocaust memoirs. I haven’t been to Auschwitz, but I was reminded of the closest proxy of it I’ve ever seen: a scale model of a concentration camp in a German history museum in Berlin, the tiny figures of prisoners lined up in the direction of the gas chamber, its surprisingly slapdash machinery a stark reminder that someone was tasked with cobbling together an infrastructure for genocide, and followed orders.
Reflections like these are encouraged by Kron’s sensitive, holistic framing, her inference of audience intelligence, and the play’s undeniable and frightening political resonance. Kron’s father, who was still alive when 2.5 Minute Ride was written, died in 2015. “I yearn to hear his thoughts about this current regime. I’m also relieved he’s not here to see it,” she writes in an essay about her play’s revival, echoing a sentiment I’ve often heard—and felt—over the past year. “He would have a fascinating analysis. But so many times in this past year I’ve read the news, wondering if these events would trigger in him a fresh unleashing of old trauma.”
But Kron has something else to add: that her father would have found hope in popular uprisings like the 2017 Women’s March. “The hundreds of thousands rising up to say, ‘This way of treating people is wrong and I will not go along with it,’” she writes, “would have moved him beyond measure.”