I admire anyone who tackles the entertainment task of doing a one-man stage show.
A year ago, television writer Marc Jaffe decided to take his talents for a new direction and for a new cause promoting awareness.
Not only has he written for the now landmark comedy series "Seinfeld," Jaffe, who lives with his family in Cleveland, is also an experienced stand-up comic.
He teamed with Wendy Kaplan, president of MadKap Productions, and Emmy nominated playwright Eric Coblewill, and the result is the Chicago stage premiere of "Side Effects May Include."
It's a one-man biographical show, with an actor playing a fictional character based on Jaffe, detailing early onset Parkinson's disease, based on what he's experiences with his wife, Karen, who inspired the show.
Running until Feb. 10 at the Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 North Lincoln Ave. in Chicago, "Side Effects May Include" serves as perfect proof that even someone as experienced with connection with audiences like Jaffe can face a roller coaster ride with a stage production that is centered on one-man and one topic.
The play is 95-minutes with one intermission and centers around a character named Phil Rosen, played by Andrew J. Pond, a middle-aged stand-up comedian, living what Jaffe defines as "a reasonably happily married life." His only complaint is his wife Maggie's waning sex drive, which provides ample fodder for his stand-up act. But when she is diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, their life takes an unexpected turn, primarily because of the laundry list of meds she must take and the side effects. The stories are all based on Jaffe's own bittersweet experience dealing with wife Karen's Parkinson's diagnosis. And notice that the clever light "bulbs" that frame the stage are actually amber pill bottles illuminated.
I found the production heart-warming and educational. However, knowing someone who has Parkinson's certainly must escalate the interest by triple.
(I had a woman seated behind me who was not only laughing, but also audibly responding with "yes" and "uh-huh" during most of the performance.)
If you don't know someone with Parkinson's, the show is still entertaining, fun and educational, but also feels a bit too detailed and redundant.
Pond is high-energy and slips in and out of characters quite nicely, playing everyone from Phil the Comedian, to wife Maggie and their daughter Emma, along with a Rabbi friend. At least 70 percent of this play is about sex, which is why Jaffe recommends it for audiences age 18 and older.
Most certainly, one of the side effects of seeing this play is it helps enforce how blessed everyone should be for "reasonable good health."
A life with an endless parade of necessary (or unnecessary bills) is anything but a picnic, unless you think of the pills as intrusive ants.
Parkinson's disease is a chronic, degenerative neurological disorder with symptoms that can progress from mild tremors to complete physical incapacitation. According to Jaffe, in the United States in 2013, 60,000 new cases will be diagnosed. While the average age of onset is 60, an estimated five to 10 percent of people with Parkinson's experience onset at age 40 or younger.
And for any of us, it's never too soon to learn about something so many others face with courage, and hopefully, at least some humor.
MadKap Productions is donating 10 percent of the proceeds from "Side Effects May Include..." to Shaking with Laughter, an organization that was set up by Marc and Karen Jaffe in support of the Michael J. Fox Foundation.
Tickets are $20 for students/seniors and groups and $25 for general admission.
FYI: (773) 404-7336 or greenhousetheater.org. The Box Office is open Wednesdays through Saturday from noon to 8 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. There's plenty of meter parking or free indoor garage parking at the old Children's Memorial Hospital garage just a block away.