BWW Review: STILL STANDING: A MUSICAL SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR LIFE'S CATASTROPHES
A Musical Survival Guide For Life's Catastrophes
Written and Performed by Anita Hollander; Scenic Designer, Afsoon Pajoufar; Stage Manager, Renee E. Yancey
CAST: Anita Hollander, Herself
Cancer survivors have one thing in common: they are all members of a club that no-one would choose to be a member of because the initiation requirement can be daunting. However, once in the club, most proudly wear the mantle of survivor, albeit each in their own fashion. Anita Hollander lost her left leg to cancer in 1977 and channeled her experiences and musical theater skills into writing and performing a solo show, Still Standing: A Musical Survival Guide for Life's Catastrophes. With songs, wit, and a powerful message of resilience, Hollander represents something far greater than mere survival when she takes the stage in New Rep's BlackBox Theater at the Mosesian Center for the Arts.
Prior to and following the amputation, Hollander has been performing since the age of eight, and she added disability advocate to her list of achievements, promoting visibility and opportunities for performers with disabilities. I'm pretty sure if you look up the word trouper in the dictionary, you'll find her picture, and her professionalism and self-assuredness are keystones of Still Standing. The double meaning of the title can be applied to her longevity in show business, as well as to the physical act of standing before us on one leg and one prosthesis, not allowing the disease to kick her legs out from under her. In fact, she shows off her agility and balance when she removes the left leg and casually drapes it over her shoulder, alternately standing on the right leg alone or tripoding it with a set of forearm crutches.
The show runs about 60 minutes with no intermission, moving along at a steady clip as Hollander tells us her story and conveys her list of tools for survival, mostly in songs written by her. She explains that her motivation for developing the piece was in response to a query from her friend Michael Devon who had been diagnosed with AIDS in the 1980s and asked her, "How did you get from there to here?" After his death, she realized that it is a universal question and she would do what she could to help others face their struggles and survive life's catastrophes.
Among the tools in Hollander's survival kit are chutzpah, crying, the arts, family, and love, and she stands before us as an engaging, uplifting performer. She acknowledges pain, challenges, and loss, but realizes that she has to let it all go and appreciate the joy of simply being alive. It took some time for her to figure it out, but she finally found the answer to Michael's question and now she shares it with all of us.
Photo credit: Andrew Brilliant/Brilliant Pictures (Anita Hollander)