By: Lucas Hazlett
There's an old cliche that states, "Time + Tragedy = Comedy." If that's true, then consider Pamela Murphy a comedic-quantum mechanic who throws a few new variables into the mix. With her one-woman show, "The C Word," Murphy demonstrates that comedy could perhaps more precisely be defined as "Time + Tragedy + A Series of Tightly Written Sketches Performed With High Energy and Inimitable Commitment."
Directed by Second City alumnus Rebecca Drysdale, "The C Word" opens with Murphy explaining to the audience that the journey she is about to take them on -- a journey that seven out of eight women fail to make -- started three years earlier when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer.
Calling it a "gift" she "didn't know she wanted until she got it," Murphy presents a tableau of absurd characters and painfully awkward scenarios that she experienced over the subsequent three years. To wit, she finds herself listening to a meathead doctor tactlessly explain what she could expect in the aftermath of her surgery ("Imagine a bowl of rice. Now imagine 2% of that bowl of rice"). She deals with a friend whose alternative-medical suggestions include the healing properties of the island on LOST, and anthropomorphizing a coping mechanism that rationalized six months of cancer treatment downtime as "lying around, eating crap, watching television and being considered a hero."
All of this is performed with a diligence that balances the ridiculous and the relatable in such a way that by the time Murphy recreates failed attempts at picking up men and suffering friends' attempts to commiserate through the most obnoxiously tenuous comparisons of tragedies, the audience nearly forgets the real miracle: That Murphy beat breast cancer.
"The C Word" is as good a show as it should be. Great writing and great direction aside, its success rests primarily on the strengths of Murphy as a comedic performer, who proves her real gift by simply walking out on stage, introducing herself and savoring one of the night's richest laughs.
--Lucas Hazlett is a comedy geek who improvises with anyone he can. He has performed with Nobody's Token in their monthly variety show "The Soul Glo Project" at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre and performs monthly with Herschel at the People's Improv Theater.