Now, we were especially concerned about this because my sister, Meg, lives in Tokushima, Japan and Tokushima is only forty miles from Kobe, which was the earthquake's epicenter. Meg's lived there for seven years and she has a Japanese boyfriend there whose name is Yamamoto and he's a sweet potato farmer and she calls him Yam for short and he doesn't speak any English so he doesn't know how funny that is."
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Julia Sweeney's filmed version of her one-woman show is absolutely wonderful.
I first saw it with my husband when he was ill with Stage 4 cancer. I re-viewed it last night, over a year after my husband passed away. Both my husband I loved it when we first saw it (and continued to use the line, "I love my shunt!" until he died), and I loved it just as much, but for different reasons, upon seeing it again.
I found Ms. Sweeney's material to be truly amazing; she managed to capture the horror of the nightmarish "cancer experience" while keeping in touch with the parallel (and often surreal) experience that life does, in fact, go on: Cats still need to be fed, garbage still needs to be taken out, and small incidents do not become less irritating or hilarious just because there's terminal illness in the house.
The fact that Ms. Sweeney is able to find, articulate and share the humor inherent in a horrible, emotionally draining experience is a gift to everyone who sees the show. Her great intelligence and sensitivity toward the subject matter prevents her from descending into sentiment (or worse) -- there are no banal observations or advice about how to deal with terminal illness, no facile, semi-spiritual conclusions about life and death. I think she understands that this kind of bunk (all too common in books and film these days) is at best insulting to anyone who has lived through this kind of experience. Instead, her emphasis on the small, human aspects of living with someone who is terminally ill makes the experience all the more real, and all the more valuable. I know that every time my husband and I had to face a particularly difficult medical procedure, we'd swap lines from Ms. Sweeney's show, and somehow it made it easier to get through it.
And setting aside the subject matter, there's the simple fact that Ms. Sweeney's timing is terrific -- she really knows how to set up a joke and deliver it. These are not bust-your-gut guffaw jokes and anecdotes; these are the kind that manage to get you crying and laughing at the same time. What could be better?
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