BWW Review: Finding Good Cheer Amid Threatening and Debilitating Moments: THE PINK HULK at Charm City Fringe

BWW Review: Finding Good Cheer Amid Threatening and Debilitating Moments: THE PINK HULK at Charm City Fringe

Many of us may at this point be needing a little inspiration, a little encouragement to help us view traumatic events that threaten our sense of safety as sources of strength and uplift, even of humor. If you happen to be one of those in need of such inspiration and can act quickly, you might just be able to address it with The Pink Hulk, a one-woman autobiographical piece written and presented by playwright and actor Valerie David as part of the Baltimore Charm City Fringe Festival.

David has the distinction of having survived two different kinds of cancer, non-Hodgkins lymphoma around the turn of the millennium and, more recently, breast cancer. Pink Hulk focuses primarily on the breast cancer story, starting with David in the islands celebrating fifteen years of survival, intent upon locating a hookup for some vacation fun, and in the process coming upon a lump. The course from there is somewhat predictable, but like every commonly-lived story, it benefits from retelling from the standpoint of every new witness, in the light of the details that make each person's story different and intriguing.

With David, we go through denial, being dragged into diagnosis the day before a new job, going through chemotherapy, losing her hair, losing some friends who couldn't cope, and undergoing radiation as the last phase of the treatment. We hear about the loneliness, the quest for "sympathy sex," the impact of chemically-induced menopause, the loss of career opportunities and energy, the support of friends, struggles with body image, weight issues, and, perhaps most important, "the magic potion of improv," from which this performance self-evidently grows. David has a comic's timing, a turn for sketch artistry, and a standup comedian's comfort with making discomforting confessions.

We know from the fact that David is standing before us that the upshot will be triumphant, and that there will be some kind of cathartic experience ushering us into that triumph (it turns out to be a five-borough bike race), and we don't mind the predictability at all. This is a good, healthy kind of predictability, based in the truth and commonality of the experience being shared. And if there are some storytellers' tricks employed along the way, that too is just fine. David is good company, funny, exuberant, passionate, despairing, maternal and daughterly, sometimes a bit raunchy, and always candid. Her show would be great briefing for women facing a breast cancer diagnosis, but also makes a fine evening of theater.

Hurry, though, if you want to see it. There are only three more performances during the Festival, Friday through Sunday.

The Pink Hulk: One Woman's Journey to Find the Superhero Within, written and performed by Valerie David, directed by Padraic Lillis, part of the Baltimore Charm City Fringe Festival, at St. Mark's Church, downstairs stage, 1900 St. Paul Street, Baltimore, MD 21218. Tickets $10 plus fee, https://charmcityfringe.ticketleap.com/. Adult language, sexual situations graphically described, disease and treatment described.

Photo credit: Rich Adler.

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From This Author Jack L. B. Gohn

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