by Marilyn Lester
Rarely does a cabaret show feature an illustrated lecture on the male reproductive system, delivered by an irascible, but charming, octogenarian. Yet, this oddity was precisely the case with A Man and His Prostate, a hilarious 90-minute monologue about a sudden, unexpected trip to a foreign emergency room.
Two years ago, the then 76-year old writer Ed Weinberger collapsed on vacation in Italy, learning later that he was two hours away from renal failure and death. Weinberger turned this harrowing experience into a very funny one-man play. This cautionary tale is voiced by that Energizer Bunny of an actor, Ed Asner, who, at 86, delivers the text with such conviction that many in the audience believed the story to be Asner’s own.
Garbed in a vacationer’s shorts, Hawaiian shirt and baseball cap, Asner makes the most of his preparations on stage – taking his time to get comfortable before launching into an old medically-themed joke about “a German, an Irishman and a Jew.” Asner’s appeal is immediate, his timing perfection, and his reputation for comedic acting in no danger of being sullied. Weinberger’s story is told in two parts, pre-op and post-op. The emergency trip to the hospital in Florence, encounters with non-English speaking doctors, the tests, the preparation and the operation itself are told with the hilarity that earned Emmy Awards for both author and actor. Amusing slides peppered throughout the piece, mostly of Asner reacting to the latest medical insult, provide a funny visual integration that keeps the pace lively and interesting.
This tale of the prostate, albeit funny (“vagina monologues, it’s not”), does have a weighty side: at the close of the first act, the tone of the piece morphs to the serious. Asner recites statistics about prostate cancer. Although Weinberger had a hugely enlarged prostate “the size of a freshly caught branzino,” and bladder stones, he dodged the Big C bullet. Yet prostate cancer affects more men than might be presumed. A slide with the names of prominent men who’ve died of prostate cancer presents a shocking list. A Man and His Prostate clearly wants to arouse awareness of early detection – noting with hilarity that over the years US doctors have abandoned the single best test for prostate problems: “sticking a finger up the ass.”
In part two, the unrelenting comedy continues. In waiting for the OK to be released from the hospital, Weinberger/Asner finds Jesus, in the “miracle of the piss” – a desperate prayer to the Savior for a fully operational bladder – resulting in the 11th hour success of urinating into a beaker to the doctor’s satisfaction. Finally discharged from the hospital, and ensconced in a comfortable hotel room, Weinberger/Asner awaits the arrival of his wife. But with the prostate tied to sexual functioning, and half of it now gone, what will happen? The journey to discovery is fraught, but hilarious to its happy ending. And then, finally, there is most appropriately a toast:” L’Chaim – to life!
In debuting A Man and His Prostate, a tryout for a proposed long-run, Asner slipped into the role as easily as a hand into a glove. His voice is strong and unwavering, his life energy robust, going strong as ever. Abetted by the intimacy of the cabaret room, A Man and His Prostate proved both great entertainment as well as good medical advice.
A Man and his Prostate, Friday, January 15 at 7pm and Saturday. January 16 at 9:30pm
The Metropolitan Room
34 West 22nd Street, New York, 212-206-0440, www.metropolitanroom.com
Photos/Video: Magda Katz