MADAME OVARY (Inis Nua): Theater or therapy?

Madame Ovary is a staged memoir about a young woman who survived cancer; it is the fourth female solo show opening just this week: What the Constitution Means to Me, The Elephant in the Room, Macbeth in Stride, and now Madame Ovary. If only these women had something new and interesting to say. How is this theater and not therapy? or just showing off?

Let me say that I’m glad that Rosa Hesmondhalgh, the author of this piece, is cured of her cancer. I’m also glad that Satchel Williams has such stage presence and can provide an excellent British accent. I’m glad, too, that Charlotte Northeast, the director, found interesting ways to stage this on Fergie’s tiny stage.

The monologue takes us through Rosa’s life as she has a Tinder date that ends well; we hear about every symptom of her illness, every MRI, every drainage tube and every surgeon’s diagnosis, with all the prodding and poking demonstrated, all the weeping and pain and panic; her devoted mother, her stalwart friends. Now consider this: Satchel Williams looks to be in her early twenties, her age matching the autobiographical playwright’s. Most of the people in the audience were at least twice if not three times that age, which means it’s likely that medical bad news is familiar territory. Quite likely some of these senior audience members are physicians. Why would they want to listen to all this detailed cliche self-help?

And for those of you who might have mistaken the title for a Flaubertian typo: no. This piece bears no resemblance/debt/allusion whatsoever to the world famous 19th-century French novel.

[Inis Nua Theatre Company at Fergie’s Pub, 1214 Sansom Street] November 8-19, 2023;

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