The cast of How My Mother Died of Cancer, and Other Bedtime Stories.
BOTTOM LINE: This play about a woman reconciling the death of her mother veers from wickedly funny to deeply moving, but is thoroughly and consistently enjoyable.
In How My Mother Died of Cancer, and Other Bedtime Stories, we are invited to watch Kate attempt to put together a play that addresses the untimely death of her mother. Complicating this effort and adding to the zaniness is Kate's decision to have her actual friends and family perform the piece. This includes her grieving brother Tim, his best friend Barry, her scene-stealing gay friend Trent, her quirky friend Lena, and her emotionally distant father. Since Mom is of course now dead, she is portrayed by an actress previously unknown to the rest of Kate's cast/family.
The pendulum of Chris Kelly's script swings from moments where you'll wish you had brought a tissue to moments where you'll split your side laughing. The show-within-a-show features hysterical vignettes, such as the "Cancer Dance," a game show spoof called "Wheel of Cancer," and other brief musical numbers. It is not hard to imagine that some elements of the show could perhaps be considered in poor taste - a man dressed in a bunny costume and billed as "Cancer Monster" attacks Mom - but it's hard to be offended when you are laughing so heartily. The more tear inducing parts revolve around Mom's deathbed advice, the bedtime stories she told her children, and Kate's struggle to grieve and repair her relationship with her Dad who is very reluctantly participating in this project.
The talented cast members gel so completely that some people in the lobby after the show were confused as to whether or not we had just seen Kate's actual family and friends. We did not, especially since Kate is a fictional character (but the show is based on Kelly's experience with his own mother). But what we did see was a very funny, deeply tender work about the ways we confront and deal with the death of a loved one.
(How My Mother Died of Cancer, and Other Bedtime Stories plays at The Robert Moss Theatre, 440 Lafayette Street, between East 4th Street and Astor Place, through August 22nd. Remaining performances are Friday 8/20 at 6:15pm and Sunday 8/22 at 2:15pm. For more information visit www.cancerplay.com. Tickets are $15 in advance, $18 at the door, and are available at FringeNYC.com, by calling 866.468.7619, or in person at FringeCENTRAL, located at 1 East 8th Street at 5th Avenue. There is NO LATE SEATING for Fringe NYC shows.)