A New Play, Looking for Parcifal, Tackles Death--with Humor

January 21, 2015 11:08 PM

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If you heard that a play was about illness, death, and dying you would not be inclined to think comedy. But joining the two themes is possible. When done artfully, the comedic treatment can draw the audience into the maelstrom of otherwise taboo and painful issues. Playwright Ronald Ribman's 1977 Broadway production of Cold Storage, starring Martin Balsam and Len Cariou, which was set in a cancer ward, accomplished that improbable coupling of catastrophic illness and comedy. The play received a Drama Critics award. Actor Richmond Shepard later appeared in a Los Angeles production of Cold Storage, which also won an award. In 2008, Shepard resurrected his role in an off-Broadway revival of the play.

Perhaps Shepard's experiences with Cold Storage is what prompted him to direct Brenda Shoshanna's new play, Looking for Parcifal. Shoshanna, an award-winning playwright, is also a psychologist and the author of several books about illness, coping with crises, and the spiritual practice of Zen Buddhi...

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