Witnessing Gene Glave in her one-woman show Mammologues, is less like watching a play and more like having dinner with your favorite kooky, off-the-wall aunt. You know, the aunt who says what she means and holds nothing back; makes you laugh until you nearly pee your pants all the while remaining genuinely interested in you and your latest boyfriend.
Glave’s play material was plucked directly from her series of blog posts two years ago as she battled breast cancer, and trust me, by the time you exit the theater, you’ll feel as if you’ve just read her diary. Navigating her way through wig shopping, pot brownies, and folliculitis (inflammation of the hair follicles after chemotherapy), Glave is uncompromisingly honest as she talks about the ugly side of cancer. She makes no apologies for the graphic content, (there’s a bit about her losing her toenails which left my skin crawling), or the personal disclosure (after her mastectomy, still loopy from anesthesia she tells all her visitors she loves them dearly but, “no one can fuck like Dick can.” Don’t worry, Dick is her husband).
Frankly, it’s refreshing.
What makes Mammologues brilliant is that while trying not to pee my pants laughing, I momentarily forgot that this woman was actually telling a true story — her story. She’s not acting. If you want a sneak peek into Gene Glave — the sister, the wife, the mother, the friend — look no further, for you will find her heart and soul on the stage of the Village Playhouse. In that way, it is not like going to the theater. There are no characters, no actors, no costumes. Aside from a few props of wigs and falsies, and a simple set reminiscent of a home (or a cozy hospital room), Glave is on stage playing (but not acting as) herself. Sure, she had some help from director Keely Enright in crafting her journals into a play format and perfecting her innate comedic timing, but, an experienced thespian, she is at home on stage.
As I became engrossed in her story, she was at different times my sister, my mother, my aunt, and my friend, speaking openly about the “darkness of depression,” yet making me smile seconds later with true-life tales of a musical rendition she and her sister choreographed called “Bye Bye Boobie.” She seeks to entertain us, but also to give voice to a sickness that no one seems to want to speak about. Cancer. Everywhere else but in this play, cancer is whispered about. Unpleasant and awkward, it seems impossible to render the appropriate amount of empathy towards someone who has it. Yet, everyone knows someone who at least knows someone (who may know someone) who has struggled with cancer, and therein lies the beauty of this play — untapped mass appeal. Drag the men in your life to see it, Glave lovingly references her husband and three boys throughout, and husbands and sons in your life may thank you for it someday.
How inspiring to find a play that succeeds in being honest, poignant, funny, and relatable all before intermission.
The Mammologues: Gene Glave’s Journey Through Breast Cancer • Piccolo Spoleto Theatre Series • $17-$22 • 1 hour 30 min. • May 25 at 7 p.m.; May 31 at 3 p.m.; June 3, 5 at 8 p.m. • Village Playhouse, 730 Coleman Blvd., Mt. Pleasant • (888) 374-2656