Saturday, January 28, 2012

Cancer Be Not Proud,,,,,,,,,,

On Thursday, I saw the film 50/50 and on Friday, I saw Margaret Edson's Pulitzer prize winning Wit on Broadway. So, yes, you can say that cancer has been on my mind after seeing these two excellent pieces.

I imagine there are very few people in the country who have not been impacted by cancer. We all probably know someone who has had the dis-ease or perhaps we ourselves have being this abnormal growth in you name the body part...the spine and back like 27 year old Adam in the film 50/50 or perhaps the ovaries like the 50 year old English professor Vivian Bearing in Wit.

Adam and Vivian are fictional characters. But interestingly, Will Reiser, 50/50 screenwriter and co-producer, survived cancer when he was in his 20s; his experience is the inspiration for the film. Cynthia Nixon, who plays Vivian Bearing in MTC's Wit at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, is a breast cancer survivor; Lynne Meadow, the director, is also a cancer survivor. Many compare Ms. Nixon's performance to that of Kathleen Chalfant, who first played the role to praise on the New York City stage in 1998. According to this NY Times article, after Ms. Chalfant's brother died from terminal cancer in 1998, she approached the role of Vivian Bearing with "a new level of empathy and insight".

According to the American Cancer Society, "half of all men and one-third of all women in the US will develop cancer during their lifetimes." The other day as I read a book on nutrition while taking the NYC subway to Brooklyn, I became troubled when I read that I unknowingly increased my chances of breast cancer by simply starting my menstrual cycle at an early age (wish I could have controlled that one) and never having children. Throw in my Kevin Zraly wine classes, and let's just say I better heed the advice in that nutrition book and also start popping some folate.

In Wit, Vivian Bearing has Stage IV cancer. She reminds us that there is no Stage V. The erudite college professor specializing in the metaphysical poetry of John Donne neglects to get regular medical checkups, even though her mother died from cancer (body part - breast). The play takes us through the last year of her life as she gives up the intellectual control that has been her strength throughout her life and becomes weakened physically and emotionally by experimental cancer treatments at a university research hospital and knowing that her end is near.

I highly recommend seeing 50/50 and Wit. Both use humor to portray a subject matter that will impact most of us. 50/50 is now on DVD and Wit runs through March 11th on Broadway.

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