"A SLIGHT DISCOMFORT," Salt Lake Acting Company, through Oct. 19 (801-363-0526); running time: 1 hour, 15 minutes (no intermission)
In the back of the playbill for Salt Lake Acting Company's latest play in the intimate Chapel Theater, "A Slight Discomfort," there is a list of Web sites from playwright Jeff Metcalf serving as much as a resource as it does a playbill.
Metcalf, an award-winning teacher and writer who lives in Salt Lake City, continued his journal writing through the discovery and treatment of his own prostate cancer. That's essentially what this one-man play is about: part entertainment, part history, part warning to men.
Directed by David Mong, "A Slight Discomfort" has been three years in the making and has toured through different communities, all with positive results.
Local actor Paul Kiernan has the daunting task of bringing his friend Metcalf's words to life, which he does with a wonderful mix of humor, fear, vulnerability and defiance.
With a very sparse set, consisting of only a table, a music stand and a stool, Kiernan takes us on Metcalf's journey: From the routine physical to finding out he had cancer, the removal of his prostate and the leftover cancer being treated with doses of estrogen.
But it's not as grim as it sounds. Metcalf's story is filled with humor lots of it, and Kiernan is up to the challenge. Playing not only Metcalf, Kiernan also takes on the roles of his wife, doctors, lab technicians, body parts, friends and even death. He also received many laughs with wonderful physical comedy during some of the awkward moments in an exam room.
A slight movement of his head and as many different vocal inflections a patient suffering from lung cancer being a standout Kiernan's delivery is clear and easy to follow. Some of his "conversations" were quite poignant: The wife's pain when she realizes she'd been left out; the doctor's sympathy in delivering bad news; the moment he asks Death, "Are you here for me?"
Kiernan really shines in the moments of solitude and reflection, such has sitting alone at the computer doing research on the disease, reading a letter written to him by his daughter and expressing his questions about possibly being impotent.
Metcalf's honesty and willingness to share have provided a script that, as he hoped during an interview last week, will get men talking and will get men to the doctor.
There will be a post-play discussion with Metcalf after Sunday's matinee.
Sensitivity rating: Swearing, frank sexual language.