Last night, I was slated to review a couple shows at the Charm City Fringe Festival (“Fringe”). To be honest, I didn’t have much energy for it. I’d stayed up until 4:00 am watching a horror show and was tired and a bit weary. I’m really glad I made my way to St. Mark’s, though, to watch the Baltimore premiere of The Pink Hulk: One Woman’s Journey to Find the Superhero Within (“The Pink Hulk”).
Valerie David in The Pink Hulk: One Woman’s Journey to Find the Superhero Within. Photo courtesy of the artist.
Valerie David’s autobiographical one-woman show is inspiring and has just the right balance of positivity and pathos. I try to avoid reviewer clichés, but in this case I can’t help myself because I so rarely have this experience: The Pink Hulk literally made me laugh and made me cry.
Beginning on a beach in Aruba, David is drinking umbrella drinks with her bestie while looking for love (the, um, temporary kind) and celebrating 15 years of being cancer-free. She is so pleased with her healthy, happy life that she almost ignores the lump under her right arm. She’d already beaten Stage III Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma; wasn’t cancer one of those “one per customer” kind of deals? Yet, at the insistent urging of her friends, David gets laid, gets on the line with her oncologist, then gets back to the U.S. for the dispiriting diagnosis of Stage II Breast Cancer.
David’s story takes you through her fight against breast cancer and explores the ways it differed from her experience with lymphoma a decade-and-a-half before. Central to this is the notion that while lymphoma attacked her as a person, breast cancer attacked her as a woman. This assault affected her psychologically and emotionally in a way the lymphoma simply did not, tapping into all the fears we women are trained to hold in our deepest places. This will change my body forever; will anyone ever find me attractive again? Will I feel ashamed of my body – burned from radiation treatment, bald from chemotherapy, so much heavier from the medications I’ll have to take? Will anyone love me? The myriad losses David experiences are devastating and range from the physical to the professional and, disappointingly, to the personal. Even beach besties bail during cancer number two.
Enacting brief scenarios that occurred through her treatment and recovery process, David takes on the roles of 10 or more characters, but the story is primarily told in her voice. And it’s a beautiful voice. Recounting one part of her history, David sings part of a song. Hers is a bold, strong, Broadway-musical kind of voice; lost opportunity is yet another casualty of the cancer wars.
The thing that stands out most in David’s story, though, isn’t the cancer. It’s David’s response. Despite the stresses and the setbacks, David grows strong. Like ‘Mr. McGee, you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry’ kind of strong. She uses her wit and talent to soar over the hurdles cancer puts before her. And she manages to approach this whole chapter of her life with a wonderful sense of humor and love. It’s heartwarming to see how David moved past her vulnerabilities, found her inner superhero and not once, but twice, kicked cancer’s ass.
Valerie David’s autobiographical solo show, The Pink Hulk: One Woman’s Journey to Find the Superhero Within, was just what I needed to snap me out of my post-election funk. David’s story, by turns comical and heartbreaking, demonstrates that obstacles can be overcome and that we each have a superhero inside us. I recommend this show to anyone who enjoys authentic, well-performed theater and to anyone needing a reminder of the strength and resilience of the human spirit.
Running Time: Approximately 60 minutes.
The Pink Hulk: One Woman’s Journey to Find the Superhero Within plays through November 13, 2016 at the Fifth Annual Charm City Fringe Festival, performing at Saint Mark’s Lutheran Church, Downstairs – 1900 Saint Paul Street, in Baltimore, MD. Tickets, and required Fringe buttons, can be purchased at the box office or online.
Only three performances left:
Tomorrow, Friday, November 11th at 7:45 PM
Saturday, November 12th at 7:00 PM
Sunday, November 13th at 2:00 PM
Parking is abundant and free at the St. Mark’s Lutheran Church parking lot on 20th Street, across from the venue.
Get Your Fringe On! Fifth Annual Charm City Fringe Festival Preview by Patricia Mitchell.
Charm City Fringe Review: ‘The Shoemaker’s Holiday’ at Baltimore Shakespeare Factory by Patricia Mitchell.
Charm City Fringe Review: “Yo, You Be Trippin!’ at Saint Mark’s Lutheran Church, Downstairs (Coming).
Valerie David’s ‘The Pink Hulk’ website.