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Grapefruit

nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
October 12, 2011

Grapefruitis a gem, and well worth your time. It's an autobiographical play by Sally Lambert that deals mostly with her battle against cancer and against a medical/insurance monolith that seems determined to keep her from living her life.

Grapefruit—which takes its name from the size of the tumor the doctors removed from her body—charts Sally's journey with "The Big C," from immediately post-op to her first encounter with her oncologist (whose first question is whether she's insured) to her experience with chemotherapy to her liberating discovery of alternative wellness practices. Along the way, in addition to meeting many of the medical personnel involved with Sally's case, we meet and/or hear about past and current loves. We also get a sense of Sally's passion for music (she was a singer as well as a writer, and the great love of her life was a jazz musician).

All of these people are conjured by Cheryl King, StageLeft's proprietress, who here reminds us that she's also a magnificent actress. Her performance is nuanced, constantly compelling, and ultimately very moving. Theresa Gambacorta's direction is unobtrusive, subtle, and smart.

Grapefruit provides lots of food for thought, railing with good reason at the status quo in America vis-a-vis health care. Although it's about a woman fighting for her life, it's one of the most life-affirming dramas I've come across.

Sadly, Lambert herself did not live to see Grapefruit on stage. She'd intended to perform it herself at StageLeft, in 2010; but she died two months before the planned opening. King has generously and respectfully brought the piece to the stage as tribute to this fine writer; and so there are places where, I suspect, the dramaturgy might have gotten fixed had its author survived. Yet it's raw and riveting as is, and makes for an incisive and cathartic hour of theater.