Culture Vulture Review
New York, November 12, 2001
- Roy Sorrels
|Anita Hollander is a one-legged
actor. She lost her leg in 1977 to cancer, and has gone on to have a successful
career in New York and regional theatre. Part of this career has been
creating and performing her funny and moving one-woman show, Still Standing.
Her show tells her story from the diagnosis of her cancer to the very
moment of performance. Her leg will not grow back, but her mind and spirit
and soul have grown to more than compensate. She strides onstage wearing
her prosthetic leg, and she could clearly play any role short of the chorus
of 42nd Street. Tap dancing is probably beyond her, but not much else
would be. After a while she takes the leg off and, for a few very strange
minutes, tells her story with the leg draped over her shoulder.
With song, wit, understatement, great dollops of humor, but not a smidgen
of self-pity, Hollander reaches out to every member of the audience. How
many, after all, will share her one-legged condition?
But the strength of her material,
and the power of her performance, is that it reaches out to the disability,
the handicap, the wound that everyone who has made it to adulthood shares
and is somehow learning to cope with.
She faces head on the fact of her loss. All the other facts of existence
still face her-she is essentially alone and must seek love, and she
gets no extra credit in the puzzle of figuring out what it all means.
She talks about all of it so clearly, jokes about it so unselfconsciously,
but especially sings about it with a stunning vocal instrument that
swoops from show-stopping strength to lyric sweetness to husky, musky
Somebody--maybe it was Hemingway--said that to make great writing, just
tell the truth about something important, and that's what Hollander
has done. She tells an up-and-down story. She wanted to know exactly
what the hospital would do with the amputated leg and got no straight
answer. But she also revels in her daughter's description of mommy in
the swimming pool in a song both touching and hilarious, "Mommy
Is a Mermaid." She wryly tells the truth about a survival-job stint
in the phone sex game. She describes the agony of phantom limb pain.
But mostly Hollander celebrates the gift of life in a way that is never
saccharine, and she sings of the gift of love in the beautiful "I
Want to Be There," celebrating the love of her husband and daughter.
Her description of the challenges of one-legged sex (the process of
taking off that pesky prosthetic limb, she says, can be a mood-destroyer)
is funny, provoking the kind of laughter that comes with a tear in the
eye. Each of the songs--there are 14 of them--illuminates an aspect
of who she is, what she has overcome, and her continuing struggles.
STILL STANDING has been presented at The White House, Off-Broadway,
and at regional theatres throughout the country. If you or your organization
would like to book the show, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org