It's a Miracle!

A Solo Show About Cancer That's Actually Good

It's a Miracle!

Laurie Clark (

CANCER: THE MUSICAL It has a happy ending.

  • comments (6)
  • Print

Mathematics probably hasn't invented a number high enough to count the theater people who have considered putting on solo shows about a loved one dying of cancer. Montana von Fliss, in her defense, waited six years after her father's death before she attempted Cancer: The Musical—so at least you know you're not about to endure the awful situation of watching someone trying to process grief onstage.

The first few minutes of Cancer put some other fears to rest: von Fliss poses as a "scientician" in a lab coat and glasses, fiddling with beakers and an overhead projector while trying to figure out the connection between matter and loss. (And though she employs the scientific method as a structure, von Fliss means both those words in their emotional senses—"matter" as in how much something matters to her, and "loss" as in the loss of her father.) She keeps things relatively light for the first third of the play, faux-sciencing her way through some exposition (her father was mentally ill and had a long history of substance abuse) and using some props and sight gags (confetti, stuffed cats, and a running joke involving rim shots for bad punch lines).

By the time von Fliss gets to the emotional core of the play, where she describes her father's death in vivid detail, she's sold the audience on her competence as a storyteller, despite some flaws. (At the performance I attended, von Fliss dropped several lines and seemed to lose her place on three occasions, which is not ideal, to say the least, for a one-person show.) She doesn't treat her audience like unwilling participants in a therapy session, so we go along for the ride—if you have issues with mucus, you should be alerted that you will be sitting in the middle of a chorus of gooey snuffles for the latter half of Cancer. At just about the point where you wonder if von Fliss is going to abandon her audience in a suck-hole of depression, she pulls out a celebratory musical conclusion that doesn't feel at all contrived. She's done her work, she's lived to tell the tale, and you'll be grateful that she did. recommended


Comments (6) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
Paul, this is probably more of a beef for the headline writer, but Brendan gave a positive review to Tania Katan's show at ACT a couple years ago. So the 'actually good' quip is contrary to the paper's record. Just sayin' yo.
Posted by Sven on June 9, 2010 at 1:00 PM · Report this
Hey Sven:

I wrote the headline. Two shows can be "actually good," can't they?
Posted by Brendan Kiley on June 9, 2010 at 3:52 PM · Report this
Oh wow. thanks for responding Brendan!

They sure can! It's just that the headline struck me as 'there haven't been any good shows about cancer' is all, and I distinctly remember the good review you gave Tania's show. She's became my hero after seeing her do that show.

Anyways three cheers for Montana! She's awesome, and I hope to see the show this weekend!
Posted by Sven on June 9, 2010 at 8:05 PM · Report this
I saw the show (and loved it) and I thought that losing her place was a part of the breakdown between "scientist" and reality. To me it seemed to be part of the show and very much intentional.
Posted by Greasy Sae on June 10, 2010 at 11:37 AM · Report this
Hello Stranger staff! I took that promo shot of Montana. Any chance you could you plop in a photo credit for me? Laurie Clark Photography ( Thanks!
Posted by Laurie Clark Photography on June 11, 2010 at 1:16 PM · Report this
So.... I know it's probably over and everything, but shouldn't there be something on here telling me where this is (was) showing and how much it costs and stuff?
Posted by Judah on June 24, 2010 at 11:53 PM · Report this

Add a comment