Opening tonight at the Vegas Motel is “Pirates of the Chemotherapy” by Paul Schutte, presented by the Minot Area Theatrical Society. Director Nicolette Eizenzimmer chose the play because her mother passed away recently from breast cancer, and she wanted to honor her.
“It feels true to what she went through,” Eizenzimmer said. “The first time I read it, I cried. It completely describes it verbatim.”
“Pirates” is described as a dramatic comedy, because while the subject is certainly very serious, the dialogue is quite funny.
“A lot of people use humor to cope with things going on in their lives,” said Eizenzimmer. “But some of the characters use it as a wall to protect themselves.”
The humor begins with the title – a not-so-disguised play on the title “Pirates of the Caribbean.”
When asked how the name came about, the author said, “I saw a woman who was undergoing chemotherapy wearing a scarf over her bald head along with hoop earrings. I thought of a pirate and that led to the idea of a support group called ‘The Pirates of Chemo.’ It stuck in my head. After researching the topic, I realized what an apt metaphor pirates were for breast cancer survivors. They have lost parts of them like pirates (think hooks for hands and eye patches) and they fight fierce battles.”
On a bare stage we follow a soccer mom named Judith, played by Eizenzimmer, on a surreal trip through finding out that she has breast cancer. The actresses, who make up the support group later, double as the doctor and medical technicians in this opening scene.
The pace slows as the scene shifts to a church basement where the support group meets weekly. It is primarily a play about what modern women go through in their daily lives with children, husbands and jobs, with the additional burdens cancer imposes.
The group was founded by “Nancy,” played by Debbie Fugere-Fauske. “Doris,” played by Marjorie Hoeven, is a slightly oversexed, brash, no-holds-barred Southern gal. She likes to talk about herself and she will be happy to talk your ear off. Katlynn Taylor portrays “Peace,” a new-age earth child who is more than a little spacy. Kristin Nelson is “Karen,” who is not only dealing with breast cancer, but also that her husband has left her, taking all their money with him. “Winnie,” played by Kit Young, is a spirited working woman who is undergoing a less onerous course of chemotherapy because hers is a less aggressive form of cancer, and she is the only one on stage who still has her hair.
Most of the actresses are familiar faces to MATS audiences, but one of the new ones is Fugere-Fauske, who is taking on a larger role than she anticipated.
“I work with Marjorie (Hoeven) at First Western Bank and Trust, and she had been talking about how a couple of people had dropped out,” Fugere-Fauske said. “I decided to give it a try after reading the script. It consumes your life, but this is worth it to tell the story.”
“Pirates of the Chemotherapy” is a stand-alone show tonight, with ticket prices of $10 for adults and $5 for seniors and students.
Friday and Saturday, the shows include a meal catered by Sevens Restaurant. All three evenings begin at 7 p.m., while the Sunday performance, which includes lunch, begins at 1 p.m. All performances that include meals cost $22 for adults and $17 for seniors and students. Reservations are required for meal shows by calling 509-5215. For every ticket sold, $1 will be donated to Breast Cancer Awareness, and free will donations will be gratefully accepted as well.