I saw “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center of New York City”

What I saw: “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center of New York City,” a play, at MCC Theater at The Lucille Lortel Theatre, 121 Christopher Street, in the West Village of NYC.

What I wore: limited edition Puma X Swash States, white jeans, eShakti tunic top, tiny fancy dark mauve handbag with an extra-long strap.

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What I did beforehand: braved a traffic jam without honking, rode the E train, tried unsuccessfully to get a smile out of a pair of bored and surly NYPDs, succeeded with a haughty hipster barista when I got my coffee and cookie at Joe on Waverly Place.


Who went with me: lots of strangers, including some women from Florida celebrating , a couple whose daughter was a gynecological oncologist in Madison, Wisconsin, grumpy old folks next to me who were quietly uncomfortable with my cackling.

How I got tickets: online, because I thought the name was stupid and therefore great.

Why I saw this show: having seen two hospital-room black comedies, I now hope to see them all.

Where I sat: row G, seat 107, behind a guy with a huge neck and head, and between some old people and some even older people.

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Things that were sad: this is a play about people whose moms are fighting cancer. This is not a play about brave survivors, or courageous 5K fundraising participants. It is about people who are fundamentally broken.


Things that were funny: vibrator jokes, a long condom story, and that long name, which isn’t even accurate, since the funny things happen at the Gynecologic Oncology Unit at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center of New York City, not on the way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center of New York City.

Things that were not funny: someone to my left fell asleep despite my loud laughing, and when he woke up he wanted his wife to tell him what happened.

What it is: a play, set in a hospital room at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center of New York City, featuring four skillful actors and lasting about 90 minutes. 

Who should see it: anyone seeking something better than the absurdly simplistic and unrealistic portrayal of people with cancer being “brave warriors,” audiences prepared for simulated oral sex onstage, fans of Law & Order.

What I saw on the way home: a warning light on the dashboard of my car alerted me that the front seat passenger was not wearing a seatbelt. My front seat passenger was my purse, made somewhat heavier than normal with the addition of my laptop. Nothing like the engineering choices of some German car-feature designers to remind me that I, being a hand-bag-carrying woman, may not always be thought of as a car-owner or otherwise relevant person. 

A Story for Mother’s Day

My mother died of a primary brain tumor in April of 2004.  Recently, I found a number of things I wrote in the year before her death. 
The story below is dated 18 March, 2004. 

John called tonight to say that Mom was going home from the hospital tomorrow but was “not very communicative.”  She had a transfusion or something because her red cell count was really low.  He sounded tired and on the verge of tears, but managed to relate this story.
He leaves the room for a minute to get coffee and comes back to find the room full of doctors and residents.  Apparently she was due to take a pill and a nurse gave her two pills and some water to swallow them with.  John says she hates to take pills these days and she made a face at them and would not take the pills.  In John’s brief absence, it was decided that she would not take the pills because she could not swallow them, and the speech pathologist was called.  After a thorough examination and palpation of her neck and mouth, which John walks in on, they decide to see if she can swallow some Jello.  They put it in her mouth and she makes another face and doesn’t swallow.  John is by this point disgusted with them, because she won’t swallow it because she hates Jello.  He then yells at all of the doctors in the room, calling them a bunch of idiots, among other things, and tells them to get out.  The most senior of these medical magicians tells John that they fear she can’t swallow, so John says “You need to give her something she likes.  Can she have a piece of orange?”  The doctor agrees, whereupon John produces a knife from his pocket, which he opens and hands to the doctor.  The doctor is probably so frightened that he goes directly to the oranges (in a basket on a table), and John yells at him about preparing food without washing his hands.  So John takes the knife back, cuts her a piece of orange, which Mom chews and swallows.
I think I know why they are letting him take her home.