LITTLE PRICKS by Denise Norman. Helen Gardiner.
LITTLE PRICKS by Denise Norman. Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse. July 8 at 7:30 pm, July 10 at 1:45 pm. Buy tickets. Rating: NNN
Veteran performer Denise Norman was diagnosed with MS 10 years ago, but it took a long time to understood what was happening to her. This harrowing and at times very funny piece chronicles her struggle to get that diagnosis and move on.
Norman eschews straight narrative for an absurd journey which she both enacts and comments upon, dealing with arrogant, dim, cold, or bumbling medical staff with some dignity. All the while she’s confused, alienated and living with symptoms of the disease: numbness, feeling like she’s tipping over at one point.
In one particularly effective scene she takes the Queen street car to the hospital, but along the way, she feels woozy and can barely cross the street. When she’s there, she realizes staff think she’s inebriated, but she can’t speak and can barely breathe.
Three talented young performers (Nealee Bradshaw, Layla Cornacchia, Jensen Porter) play the (mostly) unhelpful medical staff, but their role seems inconsistent in Rosanna Saracino‘s production.
While I wish there were a clearer narrative and emotional arc, Norman has a warm, generous presence. Late in the play, her story about her working class father’s reaction to her dilemma is simple yet heartbreaking. And her moving recitation of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 29 is deeply felt watching it we connect to her struggles and ultimately consider our own.