Some of you have lost loved ones to a disease that took its sweet time to do its destruction. I will not ask you to remember what that felt like. You recalled it all, just because I brought it up. For the rest: if you need a metaphor, hold your breath while suffering an eye irritation. The natural course of your life is suspended, and the things that normally enrich it are meaningless.
Despite all wise counsel, you spend your time brooding about it, becoming completely unproductive. You are overcome with both dread and anticipation, like you are walking under the hoisted piano in an old slapstick comedy. When it inevitably comes down around you, you take a guilty breath of relief. The tears of pain are thrown in, inconveniently, and free of charge.
George Chieffet’s one-act, one-actor play Love Cures Cancer: A Musical tries to keep it light, but the underlying dread is there. So while, not particularly successful as a comedy, despite some pretty funny moments, Love succeeds in a purely dramatic fashion.
When the matriarch of a Lithuanian-American family is diagnosed with cancer, her husband, Vitus, and their two sons—Damon, a hedononistic and semi-rebellious would-be songwriter, and Pithias a sensitive actor/comedian—must cope with a situation that nothing in their life has prepared them for. They each retreat to a predictable comfort zone: Vitus tells wild stories about the old country in classic immigrant braggadocio; Pithias acts things out in comically esoteric pantomimes; while Damon steals the show by serenading the audiences with his syrupy “love conquers” songs, always hoping that there is a cure for his mother’s sicknesses.
These characters are all portrayed by Paul Rajeckas. The veteran actor has mastered the technique of playing multiple characters on stage. Amazingly, he transforms among these very different men with nothing more than a simple change in appearance. He puts his glasses in his shirt pocket and transitions from Damon to Pithias, then puts on a cap to become Vitus. There are no off-beat flourishes as in his previous play- Notes to the Motherland. The actor keeps this play—the second in a trilogy that began with Notes—naturalistic and simple, keeping with the straightforward nature of the story.
If the tension pressing on our protagonists feels like too much, Damon’s songs lighten it up quite a bit. Helplessly hopeful and full of good advice, if you don’t consider these compositions (written by Rajeckas and played by him on guitar) great work, they will at least entertain.
Love Cures Cancer runs Sept 23 – 25, followed by My Lithuanian Sweetheart, Sept 30, Oct 1 and 2.
Details and tickets
Love Cures Cancer: A Musical
Written and directed by George Cheiffet
Music and lyrics by Paul Rajeckas
Presented at Artisphere
Reviewed by Steve Hallex
Runtime: Approximately 1 hour, 20 minutes
Steve’s review of part 1 of the trilogy, Notes to the Motherland