By Anne-Allegra Bennett (@aab_artiste)
Photo Credit: Stephen Sorokoff
“To live, to live as if we never had to die.”
As stillness settled over the audience, all eyes turned to Ed Asner making his way to the stage, already embodying the character the house would soon come to embrace. Dressed in a bright red Hawaiian shirt, shorts, and baseball cap, he settled into his chair and surveyed the room; quietly introducing all to the character with a few subtle grunts to himself. The audience was intrigued, and not a single word had yet been uttered. Looking out to those in the room, he said “three men walk into a bar…,” and the patrons were drawn into the story of A Man and his Prostate.
Based on actual events in the life of Emmy and Golden Globe winner Ed Weinberger (author of the play), A Man and his Prostate is perfectly suited to star fellow Emmy winner Ed Asner, who many came to know and love over the years as Lou Grant on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Having collapsed while on vacation in Italy, the show is a telling of what Weinberger went through in his discovery of how important that body part south of the waist really is when it swells to the size of a “branzino.” (As opposed to when it’s normally the size of a kiwi). He found himself at a hospital where English was not widely spoken (or correctly translated), adding to the context of the play as his saga unfolds. “When they were wheeling me in, they were wheeling a dead guy out. And he looked better than I did.”
Asner carries the entire show solo, but a series of pictures add additional visual elements to the production as the play progresses. Asner skillfully points at the images with his cane, sometimes purposefully over-emphasizing certain aspects of each one; bringing about fits of laughter. They serve as additional diagrams for understanding the material being presented, and contribute to some of the great comedic moments in the show. The subject of the play may be a sensitive topic, but as is said at one point, “for those who find descriptions of a man’s body distasteful, I’m sorry, that’s how it works.”
It is emphasized throughout A Man and his Prostate that many doctors don’t do every necessary exam, so sometimes one’s health appears better than it really is, and something important may be missed. “I had a checkup before I left. Even my bad cholesterol was good” he said in the setting of the story when talking about how no doctor thought to check for any additional health risks for a man of his age before he left on his trip.
Throughout the show there are moments where the character is speaking to someone loudly on the phone as if he isn’t really alone, and at other times the story serves as a look back at what has already happened. The process in which the comedy evolves is riveting, and Asner captivates the crowd as they yearn to know what happens next. It is a thoroughly enjoyable piece of theater with a nice balance of both comedic and more serious elements. Many scientific health related questions are answered (even those one doesn’t think to ask), and most people will probably gain more knowledge than they ever thought they would need to know about the prostate.
As stated, “this is about life, death. Since I’m still alive, the word death is more rhetorical.” Having had the doctor considered to be the best urologist in Europe, Weinberger’s comedy is filled with witty one-liners that Asner delivers with impeccable timing; leaving the audience in stitches. He is a master of comedy, and charms with his personality and distinct voice.
While it is a telling of a serious health issue, A Man and his Prostate is highly entertaining while also serving as a public service announcement to men to get prostate screenings by their doctors at their check-ups (especially those around 45-50 years of age and older). As the play came to its conclusion with the audience taking in the last moments, one of the final lines spoken was “thanks for letting me share my prostate with you.” Fitting sentiments for the topic of the show, and which shows the type of humor seen throughout.
A Man and his Prostate played a two-night only New York tryout engagement at The Metropolitan Room January 16th and 17th, before it’s expected to be shared with people around the world. A hilarious night out on the town, and due to material content it’s not suitable for children.