The very same week that Wonder Woman lands in movie theaters across the country for the first time, Valerie David arrives in Cincinnati, offering her own version of a superhero live and in person. The Pink Hulk is the playwright and actor’s passionate and comical solo show about her second battle with cancer.
Just at the dawn of her 15th year of being cancer-free, just as she lounges by the poolside celebrating her triumph, David discovers a dreaded lump. And just like that, she is thrown back into the world of doctor’s appointments, surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation all over again. Having had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma 15 years prior, David now finds herself tackling breast cancer. As she faces this seemingly uncontrollable threat to her womanhood and femininity, she begins her second encounter with the disease. But this time, she’s doing it on her terms.
David conveys a moving story of loss in almost every sense of the word. Central to the story is the notion that, while non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma was certainly not a walk in the park, breast cancer is an entirely different beast, one that settles in for an attack on her as a woman. This cancer will change her physically and possibly emotionally. In the fear that it will take everything it means to be a woman away from her, David hits back at cancer by immediately and desperately trying to have one last hurrah with all of her lady parts: She wants to get laid.
From amusing stories about calling up old acquaintances for pre-treatment cancer sex to devastating recollections of loneliness and fear, David transitions seamlessly between characters and emotions on her journey. From physical losses to professional and even personal, she comes back every time with ferocious tenacity.
Through it all, her endless passion for life, love of great sex and unbreakable sense of humor transforms her into the “Pink Hulk.” By the end, both she and her audience have shared both laughter and tears. With each new anecdote, David seems to live through these life-altering experiences all over again. Her energy onstage is contagious; she has a true talent for making her audience feel what she feels.
David’s journey to take back control from the cancer that threatened to steal her femininity is entrancing and inspiring. Cancer-free again since 2015, her “Pink Hulk” is certainly a modern-day superhero.
The CINCINNATI FRINGE FESTIVAL continues through June 11. Find CityBeat reviews of 41 early performances here. For a full schedule and more info about Fringe, visit cincyfringe.com.