genglob magazine


magazine by for generics, medicines and alternative treatments like ayurveda and traditional chinese

Jenny Allen looks at her cancer treatment

I Got Sick Then I Got BetterIt takes a uniquely gifted performer to make cancer treatment seem funny.Jenny Allen achieves that feat in her personal and witty solo monologue, “I Got Sick Then I Got Better,” now in an extended run at the New York Theatre Workshop’s 4th Street Theatre.

Spirited and looking lovely — wait for her discussion of how many ways people can awkwardly tell a cancer patient, “You look great!”_ Allen recounts bittersweet tales of her odyssey through belated ovarian cancer discovery and treatment. She also talks about the surprising emotions that accompanied this unwanted journey, feelings that linger long afterward.

A longtime writer and performer, Allen knows people are going to be uncomfortable hearing about cancer. So she starts the show by mingling with the audience, then climbs onstage to thank them for being brave enough to come. She promises “lots of funny parts,” along with a few “not-so-funny parts,” dryly adding, “As you might imagine.”

In case you’re wondering what could possibly be funny about cancer treatment, Allen’s survival is a real help. And she’s got plenty of ironic comments about the medical situations she endured. Her charming delivery is critical to audience empathy as she recites her experience with two kinds of chemotherapy, throwing in some chemo-brain jokes along the way.

Allen sprinkles nearly every story with humorous one-liners. Skewering some of the platitudes often directed at patients who are fighting for their lives, she remarks, “People said, ‘You don’t deserve this.’ Like there was someone who did.”

She talks frankly about the effect that her illness and subsequent moodiness had on her husband, cartoonist Jules Feiffer, and their two daughters. When her second round of chemo required multiple drugs delivered through a port directly into her abdomen — which her oncologist had described as “the cherry on the cupcake” — she soon found that her husband seemed to have developed “many more annoying habits.” She is also aghast to find herself competing with her young teenage daughter about who gets to be the child.

Allen lightens up with a lengthy, mirthful account of a post-treatment getaway, a week spent at a raw food retreat in Southern California. She has great fun describing the peculiar food, served in “tiny, prisoner-of-war portions.” There’s a drink that smelled like “baby spit-up,” and another beverage she describes as “fluorescent pond scum.”

Serious anger permeates Allen’s recovery, primarily directed at the doctors who didn’t correctly diagnose her for 18 months. Some ironic barbs are reserved for cold, uncaring medical practitioners.

James Lapine and Darren Katz, who co-direct the show, also helped Allen shape the material. A clever, spare setting of several different types of chairs helps the audience feel like they’re in different locations.

This stirring, 80-minute show is scheduled to run through Nov. 15.


Category: CANCER

Tagged: ,

Leave a Reply