Orlando Fringe 2017 review: 'The Pink Hulk'

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Marvel comics fans already know that the Incredible Hulk comes in more colors than just green: There's the Grey Hulk, Red Hulk, and Eric Bana/Ang Lee Hulk, of which we do not speak. But the Pink Hulk is an entirely different species of superhero, born not of gamma rays but of writer-performer Valerie David's two successful battles with life-threatening cancer.

Beginning with the Aruba beach vacation she took to celebrate her 15th anniversary after beating lymphoma, David charts the course of her subsequent breast cancer diagnosis, and the surprising ways in which it transformed her as a woman. The story bounces back and forth at breakneck speed between the seven stages of grief — with a heavy helping of the eighth stage, horniness — as David tackles taboo topics that aren't often addressed in one-person shows about overcoming illness, such as early menopause and post-treatment depression. David's monologue, like her life story, is a whiplash-inducing emotional rollercoaster, with every manically triumphant moment through her battles quickly undercut by another enervating setback.

David is a talented musical comedy performer (she was in the first reading of Urinetown before she had to drop out due to cancer treatments), and equally adept at gut-punching drama; she does such a convincing job of reliving the most painful moments of her life in rapid succession that her intensity can be overwhelming. I wish director Padraic Lillis, who has given Davis plenty of props to play with on the small Purple stage, had also reined in her explosive energy a bit more, if only to give the audience a little air. But ultimately, despite the intermittent decibel overload, David's inspirational story is an important one worth hearing out.

The Pink Hulk: One Woman's Journey to Find the Superhero Within
Purple Venue
Thursday, May 18, 5:30 PM
Saturday, May 20, 5:15 PM
Wednesday, May 24, 7:15 PM
Saturday, May 27, 12:45 PM
Sunday, May 28, 5:45 PM
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