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      IS AGORAPHOBIA FUNNY? By Thomas Putnam

      blog39827011Here's a play about a woman who is agoraphobic. And here's a play that is incredibly funny. How is that possible? How can we laugh about a mental illness? Good question, but three audiences have done it last weekend, and the cast has been doing it for the past 8 weeks.

      Let me be very clear: no one is laughing at the illness.

      I remember hearing interviews with Tig Notaro back in 2012. A little-known comedian, Notaro, then 41, stepped onstage at the West Hollywood club Largo and delivered a set for the history books. She had material, of course: in that year, in quick succession, she contracted a life-threatening intestinal disease, mourned her mother’s death in a freak accident, broke up with her girlfriend, and, when it seemed like the prophecies couldn’t get any worse, ended up in a doctor’s office, diagnosed with breast cancer.

      The interviewer asked how she could actually go on stage the same night she found out about her diagnosis and begin a comedy routine with “I have cancer.” Louis C.K., who was also performing at Largo that night, wrote, “I was crying and laughing and listening like never in my life. Here was this small woman standing alone against death and simply reporting where her mind had been and what had happened and employing her gorgeously acute stand-up.”

      Margaret Dulaney's play begins almost like a stand-up routine, with one woman in the spotlight talking to the audience: “It was just after my 28th birthday that I began my life as a fruitcake...it was as if—WHAM!--the earth dive-bombed into another part of space and my shoes weren't sticky enough to hold me on.”

      A number of audience members have said they haven't laughed so much in a very long time. And many of these same ones told of a moment—and not all the same moment—when they were wiping away tears.

      It's a healthy balance. We're in need of some good long laughing. And we're also in need of empathy and cheering for the underdog and standing with someone through tough times.

      I sincerely hope you can join us for one of the three remaining performances this weekend.

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