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Reviewed by Michael Gardner for Readers' Favorite
The Underground Cancer Comedy Club by Wynne Stevens tells the story of Axel Beckett, a hotshot funds manager from L.A. on the brink of a reunion with his estranged wife. On the way to the airport, he’s run over by a bus. Finding himself in Heaven, he pleads with God to be given a second chance at life. God agrees, sending him back so he can learn to be less of a Scrooge and to have more compassion for others. However, in this story, a deal with God operates similarly to a deal with the devil. It comes at a price. And what a price! Axel discovers he has been sent back as a man in his seventies with terminal prostate cancer. Axel asks the question begged by the plot: “What’s funny about having cancer and being shot up with chemo?”
Indeed. The Underground Cancer Comedy Club is a bittersweet black comedy that gave me many more wry smiles than laugh out loud moments. It’s a dialogue-driven story, bringing to mind the quick-fire banter like that between Vladimir and Estragon in Samuel Beckett’s Waiting For Godot. Given the existential themes in the story, I suspect Axel’s surname isn’t an accident. Layered onto this are some distinctly Dickensian undertones that reminded me of A Christmas Carol. Instead of the ghosts of past, present, and future being sent to reform Axel’s troubled soul, he meets Jim, Mac, and Hank, also cancer patients receiving chemotherapy. And a very heart-warming, human tale ensues that builds towards a satisfying conclusion that’s a good tonic for the soul.