Saving Tania's Privates Is Funny (and Sexy) as Cancer -- No, Really. And David Barker's Dodging Bullets Is Back!

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courtesy of The Ethereal Mutt
Tania Katan in Saving Tania's Privates -- and much of the rest of the time, as far as I can tell.
Woo-hoo! Happy Breast Cancer Awareness Month! My, how time flies. And if it's a traumatic human experience, you know there's got to be a wildly successful one-person show about it.

This week's tribute to the heartbreaking killer of women (and men) is Saving Tania's Privates, from local writer/performer/activist (yes, she gets at least two slashes) Tania Katan, whom you may recall from my colleague Robrt Pela's profile a couple of weeks ago.

As the marketing materials point out, this show is "a comedy about family, boobs and most importantly ... love."

Katan's a highly skilled and disciplined performer with an upbeat, ingratiating presence, so it'd be fun to watch her in anything, and she shines when telling her own story, which is a fascinating one, only partly because it stands out from a sea of statistics.

One of the first things you'll notice is the way Katan's producers have configured the inside of the Little Theatre black-box space at Phoenix Theatre. Two banks of seating form a right angle that backs the floor-level performance area into a dead-end corner. And if that makes the audience feel a little close for comfort, imagine what it does to (and for) Katan. There's nothing like being so near your spectators that you have to be careful not to physically harm them.

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courtesy of The Ethereal Mutt
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty" -- John Keats, Ode on a Grecian Urn. Pictured: Tania Katan.

Although Katan's diagnosis with aggressive breast cancer, along with her surgeries and other treatments, the effect on her relationships, and her reflections on mortality, is the impetus for this work (based on her award-winning memoir, My One-Night Stand with Cancer, whose title is explained during the performance), it's about a lot more, as most good plays are. (Jews! Lesbians! Art! Crazy, loving families who think they own you!) 

Maintaining the dichotomous, almost oxymoronic "trapped" metaphor established by the staging, Katan employs an airport security screening station as a framework for present-day monologues that flow easily (thanks to her writing and acting skills) in and out of recollections in which she plays everyone. Though she stays visually, physically, and emotionally open to the audience, Katan speaks to us directly, in the literal sense, only a few times.

In one case, she conducts a quick poll about how many people would have made the same decision she did in a particular situation. We know it's going to turn out badly, but she's been so honest up until then, most of us raise our hands in embarrassed solidarity. At another moment, she asks, "Do you know anyone who's had cancer twice and lived?" The mind boggles, and the answer sticks in the throat. What is "twice"? What is "lived"? It's the closest most of us will get to being where she's been.

Let me stress that this show is undeniably entertaining and will probably not make you miserable, unless you happen to be in an immediate-catharsis-needing place -- and if you are, you might as well get it here. This is a blood diamond of great, moving acting. Katan's huge smile, gangly arms, and defiantly flat, scarred chest are the captivating façade of a soul that just wants to survive and share. In particular, her stories of crushing, falling in love, and wanting to flee it are as romantic and toe-curling -- and terrifically, hysterically funny -- as anything you'll ever see and hear.

So jump all over this opportunity to catch a performance that's wowed audiences and press internationally -- unless you prefer to wait until it's off-off-Broadway. (Have fun in New York, Tania!) You really have almost no excuse to miss it, because there's even a show this coming Monday, October 4, and that one's pay-what-you-can and includes a mini-cupcake. Cheap (and memorable) date FTW!

Saving Tania's Privates continues through Sunday, October 10, at the Little Theatre at Phoenix Theatre, 100 East McDowell Road. Tickets (other than on Monday) are $28.50; purchase them here or call 602-254-2151. $15 student/senior admission is available in person at the box office only.

Speaking of sublime one-person shows, David Barker's Dodging Bullets returns to town for an engagement Thursday, October 7, through Saturday, October 9, at the ASU West Trauma Conference (good times!), and again Thursday, October 14, at Estrella Mountain Community College in Avondale; details here. Barker just won a Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual ariZoni ceremony, and Dodging Bullets is a must-see.

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Crip Tip of the Week: Concerned about hauling your mobility impairment out to funky downtown Grand Avenue (especially on a shuttle-free non-First Friday)? It's recently gotten waaaay more doable with the designation of two spots of disabled-only street parking on the northeast corner of 11th Avenue and Grand, near the entrance to Paisley Violin's impractically (but necessarily) tiny parking lot.

Each space is long enough for any typical wheelchair- or scooter-bearing vehicle, abuts a curb cut, and is a very short walk from Soul Invictus, La Melgosa (the "wedding cake building"), and a handful of other spaces that showcase arts, both performing and other.

If Bragg's Pie Factory, up the street at the McKinley/13th Avenue/Grand trisection, has ever been your destination, you may already know that they have their own large parking lot with handicapped spaces. My idea of ultimate luxury, especially when mobility is a severe issue but driving is not, is a yummy meal at lovely, chill Sapna Cafe in the Bragg's building and then a drive down Grand to re-park and take in a show, music, cocktails, and/or art . . . Thank you, Phoenix!



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