I Got Sick Then I Got Better
Jenny Allen's excellent solo show details her experience with ovarian cancer with both warmth and humor.
It's not that Allen takes her illness lightly -- far from it. Rather, she has the uncanny ability to talk about her experience with a warmth and congeniality that is completely disarming. This begins even before the show officially commences, as Allen greets audience members and chats with them informally. Even when she gets onstage, her opening speech sounds off-the-cuff, and the house lights are initially only slightly dimmed, enabling Allen to make direct eye contact with attendees.
While most of the stories that Allen relates have to do with her cancer -- including its diagnosis, treatment, and remission -- the show is most insightful when it comes to the way her illness affected her relationship to her family: her husband, the cartoonist Jules Feiffer, and daughters Halley and Julie. In particular, she's remarkably candid when it comes to what she felt were her husband's shortcomings. "He doesn't do tender that well," she says in one of many understated utterances that typify her vocal delivery.
Allen, a seasoned journalist who has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times, New York Magazine and Vogue, has an elegant command of language, vividly recounting her experiences while inserting liberal doses of humor along the way. She excels in a kind of wry irony that combines wit with a keen attention to detail. Some of the evening's highlights include an account of her time at a Raw Food Movement retreat, and her varied vocal spoofs of friends who kept telling her "You look great!"