Thursday, October 15, 1998
OK, a play about breast cancer. When Ken Marlowe, a writer with Chicago''s Organic Theater Co. heard that''s what the Hope Cancer Care Network wanted, he braced himself for another dry, if well-meaning, "educational" production. He was happily surprised, he says, when they told him they wanted a play that would grip folks emotionally, a play that would bring the audience into the deeply moving drama that occurs every day when another American family learns one of its members has cancer.
Marlowe was given 18 hours of video-taped discussion groups of cancer survivors and their families. Listening to people''s varied responses to the illness "blew me away," Marlowe says. Some people''s lives were completely turned around. Others insisted that the disease "didn''t faze them."
Looking for a way to convey this emotion to his audience, Marlowe resisted the temptation to write "another Movie of the Week, with the noble heroine, usually played by Kate Jackson--we all know how that ends." Instead, he decided to focus on what happens to a daughter when her mother is diagnosed with breast cancer. Will she get it, too? What will she do if her mother dies? Marlowe sat down and wrote The Gift, the story of 16-year-old Stephanie, who grows into a woman by dealing with the crisis of her mother''s illness. The "gift" in the play''s title is the strength and power her mother has given her to go on, the ability to love in a world of pain.
"There are lots of laughs, and it''s also quite touching," says Ina Marlowe, who has directed the play since its May debut. The play''s strength, she says, is that "it''s about a normal family, not a completely dysfunctional family," so the audience can relate to a problem many of them will face in their own lives. "People leave the play feeling renewed," she says.
And yes, Ken Marlowe admits he "snuck in" plenty of useful information about cancer risk factors. Although he says the play stands on its own as a dramatic presentation, it was conceived of and has been performed as an outreach piece for Chicago-area schools and community centers. It''s during the teenage years and early 20s that young women make many of the decisions that will affect their chances of contracting cancer, or of detecting it early enough to survive, he says. "We''re trying to reach the people who need to be reached, in a way they''ll listen to," he says.
People can pay $16, and come see it as a play. Or they can pay $40, with the extra money going to help fund local cancer research. Either way, the Marlowes promise to deliver a moving and thought-provoking piece of theater. cw
Renamed "The Gift of Hope," the Organic Theater Co. production plays Friday at 7:30pm, Saturday at 2:30pm and Sunday at 5pm, at the Circle Theater.
Laughter on the 23rd Floor Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 8pm; Sunday, 2pm. Comedy. Neil Simon penned this hilarious, fast-paced, semi-autobiographical comedy based on his experience as a member of Sid Caesar''s "Show of Shows" TV comedy writing team of the early 1950s. The gags are non-stop as eight aspiring New York comedy writers create the weekly Max Prince Show for live TV. Heading the cast are Michael Jacobs as Max, a comic genius, tyrant and paranoiac who takes on NBC bureaucrats with the vigor of "Spartacus against the Byzantimums;" Mark Shilstone-Laurent as Ira, the perennial hypochondriac; and Ron Genauer as the Russian-born, anti-Stalinist Val, who hires a tutor to teach him to curse without an accent. Peter DeBono directs. Main Stage at Monterey Peninsula College, 980 Fremont St., Monterey. 646-4213. $11/general; $8/children; $8/seniors. Through: 11/1.
The Misfit Index Thursday and Friday, 8:30pm. Comedy. English comedian Tony Morewood presents a series of darkly comic vignettes of the lives of British street people and folks who scrape by on odd jobs, a show he developed after working on a similar program for his TV show in Britain. The evening begins with a half-hour of stand-up comedy, and moves into the monologues. Don''t come expecting to laugh out loud--it ain''t that kind of comedy. The subject matter is probably not appropriate for children, Unicorn Theater folks warn. This is Morewood''s fourth annual appearance at the Unicorn. Unicorn Theater''s Second Stage, Hoffman Street Playhouse, Monterey. 649-0259. $12/general; $10/seniors. Through: 10/18.
The Madwoman of Chaillot Friday and Saturday, 8pm. Comedy. Veteran Peninsula actress Rosamond Goodrich stars as a Parisian woman who lives in a cellar, cares for stray cats and dreams of a world of past fantasies. Upon learning that a group of evil businessmen are plotting to make the world even uglier than it already is, she concocts a scheme for sending them all packing. Written during the Nazi occupation of Paris, author Jean Giradoux put it in a drawer for three years, vowing it would not be performed until Paris was liberated. Madwoman is considered a play of great charm, humor and insight. Western Stage Performing Arts Center, Hartnell College, 156 Homestead Ave., Salinas. 755-6816/375-2111. $18/general; $10/children; $16/seniors. Through: 10/17.
Always...Patsy Cline Friday and Saturday, 8pm. Musical Revue. The Western Stage brings its production of Always to The Wharf Theater, turning the stage into the Grand Ole Opry for a musical tribute to country singer Patsy Cline, who died tragically in a plane crash in 1963. Told through the eyes of her long-time pen-pal Louise Seger, this show features a live band and more than 20 of Cline''s greatest hits, including "I Fall to Pieces" and "Crazy." The Wharf Theater, Old Fisherman''s Wharf, Monterey. 375-2111/755-6816. $20/general; $10/children; $18/seniors. Through: 10/31.
The Idiot Witness Friday and Saturday, 8pm. Melodrama. Yet another in the First Theater''s wide repertoire of 19th-century melodramas, "The Idiot Witness" centers around the mysterious identity of the Solitary of the Heath. Why does he keep a secret prisoner? Why does he want to get rid of his "adopted" son? Boo, hiss and cheer the maidens and villains in California''s oldest continually-running theater. California''s First Theater, Scott and Pacific streets, Monterey. 375-4916. $10/general; $5/children; $8/seniors. Through: 11/28.
The Sisters Rosensweig Friday and Saturday, 8pm; Sunday, 2pm. Comedy. Wendy Wasserstein''s 1980s Broadway hit comedy has three middle-aged sisters from New York reuniting at the eldest sister''s London home for her 54th birthday. Pfeni, a disgruntled travel writer, Dr. Gorgeous, a radio talk-show host, and Sara, a financial whiz who''s failed at love, spend a boisterous evening together, punctuated by a couple of erstwhile boyfriends, and plenty of heartfelt reminiscing. The Western Stage Studio Theater, Hartnell College, 156 Homestead Ave., Salinas. 755-6816/375-2111. $15/general; $13/children; $13/seniors. Through: 10/24.