Cut, Poison, and Burn | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Cut, Poison, and Burn


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CUT, POISON, and BURN, Mary-Arrchie Theatre. Playwright Louis Peter Cimino starts out on the right foot in his attempted expose of the Western medical establishment. Cut, Poison, and Burn opens at a fancy cocktail party where William Foster, the head of a pharmaceutical giant who addresses the crowd as "doctors and wives," announces the grant of a half million dollars to renowned oncologist Dr. Lucian DeVito for research into pediatric cancer. Trouble is, Foster makes it clear the research should focus on drugs his company manufactures; unleashing his sales reps on DeVito, he promises everything from Instamatic cameras to Hawaiian vacations. And these drugs should easily gain FDA approval since Foster coincidentally chairs the committee reviewing cancer drugs.

What begins as biting burlesque, however, quickly degenerates into academic melodrama as Dr. DeVito--pushed by a statistic-spouting attorney whose young sister is battling leukemia--disavows seemingly overnight every tenet of Western medicine in favor of acupuncture and holistics. Riddled with credibility gaps, the play gathers little momentum in director John DiFusco's underrehearsed production. Cimino has done some sobering research--for example, he discovered that an AMA official wrote in a national journal that "a pack a day keeps cancer away" just after the AMA received a $14 million grant from the tobacco industry--but he hasn't found a theatrical form sophisticated enough to dramatize the awful truths he's uncovered. --Justin Hayford

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