‘Side Effects’ takes a new look at disabling disease
Andrew J. Pond
‘Side Effects May Include...’
MadKap Productions, Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago.
8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Sundays, Jan. 11-Feb. 10.
Preview at 8 p.m. Thursday,
(773) 404-7336; www.greenhousetheater.org.
Updated: January 15, 2013 1:20PM
A debilitating illness causes a stand-up comic to change his routine — onstage and off — in “Side Effects May Include...”
Phil’s not the one diagnosed, though. It’s his wife Maggie who is told that she has early-onset Parkinson’s Disease. But a partner can be affected nearly as much as the person being diagnosed.
That’s the story playwrights Marc Jaffe and Eric Coble tell in a humorous, touching one-man show, based on Jaffe’s own experiences. MadKap Productions is staging the Chicago premiere of the play under the direction of Deerfield resident Wayne Mell. Andrew J. Pond of Libertyville stars.
“Everyone is always talking about diseases from the perspective of the person who’s suffering but not ever really through the family — the people who suffer with them,” Mell said. “I found that to be a very unique perspective.” Because Phil is a comedian, he copes “by finding the humor in this horrible situation.”
Mell was also impressed with the fact that the script is “a collage of all sorts of different things,” rather than one person simply telling a story.
Mell chose Pond for the role because “he has amazing versatility.”
This is the first one-person show that Pond has done since college, but he’s playing more than one person. Of course, the main character is Phil.
“He’s a normal guy — as normal as a stand-up comedian can be,” declared Pond, who has done some stand-up. “He has been married to a woman that he considers the love of his life for 20 years. He is deeply, deeply in love with her and thinks he’s got the perfect relationship if only she were more interested in sex.”
Her lack of interest provides fodder for Phil’s comedy routine until a side effect of her medication reverses their roles in that department.
As the title implies, there is an emphasis on the side effects of the medications that Maggie takes. “There’s one point in the show where we list all the possible side effects of her particular medication and it goes on for 15 minutes,” Pond noted.
Because Pond plays a number of other people in the show, “I sometimes have to have conversations or arguments with myself,” he said. “There’s one scene where I play four different people at the same time.”
Yet the real challenge of the role, Pond said, is to go beyond the comedic approach to the situation, “and see the humanity and the truth and the love.”
Director Mell admitted that he knew very little about Parkinson’s Disease before he took on this project. The playwright proved to be a valuable resource. “He came out and told us firsthand about his experiences,” Mell reported. In addition, “I did a lot of talking with people about their experiences with it.”
Pond also knew little about Parkinson’s before tackling this role. He said playing the part, “has been an education on so many fronts.”
MadKap Productions previewed the show at theaters in Door County and Three Oaks, Michigan over the summer. As a result of those stagings, the theater company received a couple of bookings.
Mell emphasized that though this show is about the partner of someone with Parkinson’s, “It really speaks to anybody who’s living with somebody who is challenged with a disease or disability.”