“2.5 minutes is a really long time on a roller coaster if you are having a good time. If you think it’s killing your father it’s a really, really long time.”
—Lisa Kron in 2.5 Minute Ride
The first of three solo performances that will cap Studio Theatre’s 2020–2021 all-digital season, Lisa Kron’s autobiographical 2.5 Minute Ride is alternately hilarious and moving, and a testament to the power of love over fear.
Performed by Dina Thomas as Lisa, the play encompasses three disparate events: a trip Lisa and her father took to Auschwitz, where, they believe, her grandparents were murdered; her brother’s wedding to a woman he met in an AOL chat room; and her family’s annual trip to Cedar Point Amusement Park.
Director Joanie Schultz takes advantage of the technology of the ’90s—some scenes are recorded through Lisa’s camcorders, others on modern technology; with a carousel projector she shows blurry “slides” as if we can see what’s in them. Her goal is to tell some of her father’s stories, but her video doesn’t work. So she has rented a theater, and will carry on as best she can. Because Lisa talks to the camera, a new kind of intimacy is established, in a blended version of theater and film. The staging is effortless, and each element adds to the power of the performance.
Kron, who is best known for writing the book and lyrics for Fun Home, comes from a large, voluble family. She finds much humor in her status as a gay Jewish woman in the Christian Midwest, referencing “the aggravated look lesbians have in amusement parks in Ohio.” Her relatives seem supportive; she is careful, though, introducing her significant other as her “partner” rather than her “spouse,” fearing that the word “spouse” would make people’s heads explode.
Her father is frail, nearly blind, and suffers from a heart condition. A gentle, loving man, he has a passion for roller coasters. The experience of riding a roller coaster was important to the playwright: “For a moment here and there you don’t know where you are,” Kron has said. “I was interested in the way that humor and horror are flip sides of the same coin.”
Walter Kron was born in central Germany, the son of a cantor and schoolmaster of a Jewish school. In 1937 his parents sent him out of the country via the Kindertransport, an organized effort to rescue Jewish children prior to the start of World War II. After the war, he was a U.S. Army interrogator of Nazi war criminals, which plays a significant role in the story.
Dina Thomas as Lisa has an appealingly understated charm. Pencil stuck in her hair, wearing a checked shirt and jeans, she reminds you of your college roommate, or the girl who married your then-boyfriend’s best friend. Her performance has unusual depth—Thomas herself made a pilgrimage to Auschwitz as a teenager.
Lisa fears her father will die on the wooden roller coaster, the Mean Streak (now known as Steel Vengeance), although he insists on going and pops some nitroglycerin just in case. She is terrified, too, when they visit Auschwitz. Her honesty at the tragic site is refreshing; the assumptions of her safe American life drop away, and she opens up to the moment’s overwhelming pain.
The great Viktor Frankl, psychiatrist, Holocaust survivor, and author of Man’s Search for Meaning (1946), once said: “What is to give light must endure burning.”
Walter Kron, despite his suffering, was a man who radiated love and forgiveness. In a sad, funny, indescribable way, his daughter’s play honors that achievement.
Running Time: 75 minutes
Director of Video: Wes Culwell; Lighting Design: Sherrice Mojgani; Sound Design: Matthew M. Nielson; Dialect Coach: Keri Safran; Dramaturg: Adrien-Alice Hansel; Production Stage Manager: Allie Roy; Director of Production: Josh Escajeda; Technical Director: Jeffrey Martin; Assistant Director: Annabel Heacock; Video Production: Studiio Box DC
Assistant Director: Annabel Heacock; Production Assistant: Lücién Reubens; Director of Photography: Adrian Muys; Camera Operator: Zach Wood; Camera Operator: Adam Krell
Video Production by Studiio Box DC.
2.5 Minute Ride is intended for mature audiences. This production references mass murder during the Holocaust, describes the Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps, and has brief use of ableist language.