Fox Valley stages ‘Side Effects May Include’
Chicago Sun-Times -
You wouldn’t think a play about a terminal illness would be funny, but a new one-man show about Parkinson’s disease will bring the laughs, as well as the tears.
Andrew J. Pond of Libertyville stars in the play “Side Effects May Include,” written by former Seinfeld writer Marc Jaffe and Broadway playwright Eric Coble, and presented by Fox Valley Repertory. The show is at 8 p.m. Friday at Pheasant Run Resort Mainstage in St. Charles.
Based on a true story, the play is about a man named Phil (played by Pond) whose life is turned upside down when his wife Maggie is diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s disease.
“My thoughts on first reading the piece were not only what a great acting opportunity considering the number of roles I have to play in the show, but also … despite the fact that it is about a couple dealing with the wife contracting early-onset Parkinson’s, is that the show itself is so much more than that,” Pond says.
“It is really about what we deal with when someone we love becomes ill. It’s a show that everyone can relate to, not just people (affected by) Parkinson’s. It’s a show about the strength of a true, deep committed relationship and what you are willing to do for the other person when they need you.”
In the play, Phil is a stand-up comedian, and much of the material in his act comes from his marriage; specifically, his wife’s lack of a sex drive.
“They discover that one of the side effects of her main medication is that her libido goes through the roof,” he said. “And for awhile, Phil thinks this is the greatest side effect in the history of side effects. The problem is, it starts to take over their entire life, and he’s 47 years old. He’s discovering he can’t keep up with someone who’s got the libido of a 19-year-old. And he’s phobic about taking pills.”
Inevitably, he has to man up and take some pills for his wife.
“The comedy comes a lot from the ridiculous situations that some of these things put them in,” he said. “There’s actually a lot of comedy in it. The show looks at some of the ridiculous things about the entire pharmaceutical side of it. We’ve all watched the commercial and gone, ‘Why does the drug for my upset stomach cause a stroke?’ It’s very funny and very touching and heartwarming all at the same time.”
Pond has heard from people who have had Parkinson’s for years, from people who have just been diagnosed and even from people who have never even heard of it.
“Thankfully, across the board, they come up to me and tell me how this show has touched them,” he said. “It’s really heartening for me how widespread the reach of this show is.”
Audiences should expect an evening of laughter, tears and emotional honesty, he said.
“It’s an evening of what I personally believe theater is all about, which is connecting with people on a very deep and immediate and visceral way, because it’s life,” he said. “This is a very confessional-type of show. It bares open the human heart and the human condition, and you get to laugh a lot on the way.”
A portion of ticket proceeds will benefit the non-profit foundation started by Jaffe and his wife, “Shaking with Laughter,” in support of the Michael J. Fox Foundation. The show is rated R for adult subject matter and language.