Bad Medicine

You'd have a tough time finding a more articulate assessment of the U.S. health care system than this exchange in the snarky romantic comedy As Good As It Gets: "Fucking HMO bastard pieces of shit!" snarls Helen Hunt's character, Carol, a beleaguered waitress and single mom. Her son's doctor doesn't miss a beat as he consoles her. "Actually," he says, "I think that's their technical name."

That kind of sentiment will ring loud and clear this weekend in Uncovered: The American Health Care Story. The variety show is being put on by Potboiler Artists for Change, a coalition of Houston artists who have some no-nonsense questions for our powers that be. For example, why, in superpower America, do 45.8 million people go without insurance, while approximately 45 million are considered underinsured?

Frustrated with a system that she says is "cratering," local artist-producer Linda Phenix created the Potboilers, a group of "pissed-off artists" who donate their time to raise awareness of this issue. Uncovered, their inaugural performance, features 17 performers, musicians and artists in sketches that range from comic to maddeningly tragic. There's the kooky "Risk Pool," in which Patricia Haselbarth sits in an inflatable pool, bemoaning her costly COBRA insurance (represented by a snake). Later, in "WWJD," Mary Ann Pendino shares her sad, if infuriating, story about an insurance company that won't pay for her health tests, despite the fact that she has cancer and her daughter is extremely ill. The kicker: All of the works are inspired by true stories.

After the performance, Phenix's husband, clinical psychologist Joseph Bak, will offer a lengthy discussion on America's health care crisis -- and how to fix it. "People get deadened by statistics and facts, so we'll liquor them up with some art," says Phenix of her show, which is sure to entertain everyone. Well, almost everyone. "The only person who would possibly be uncomfortable would be an executive from any insurance company," says Phenix. "They'd be pretty miserable at this show."

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Steven Devadanam
Contact: Steven Devadanam