Unaffordably Unhealthy

The Tank The 99, Manhattan

What do these 12 health care horror stories say about the American medical system?

By Andrew Andrews

Original image from the company.

Twelve actors describe the trials and tribulations their characters faced in the American health care system in the avant garde production Unaffordably Unhealthy at The Tank.

Inspired by true stories about the cost of receiving care with limited or no health insurance, the large cast delivers monologue after monologue about one negative experience after another, while executing synchronized, choreographed movements that reminded me of productions I've reviewed at New Stage Performance Space uptown.

From a woman whose best friend died from self-rationing insulin, to a man who lost sight in one eye due to a car accident, the characters complain about everything from out-of-pocket expenses to being kicked out of hospitals for having no health insurance.

For three decades, I've personally ranted about the flaws in our nation's health care system, so I was eager to hear what this production had to say. Here's my reaction:

  • I enjoyed the mechanical choreography of the actors as a metaphor for the bureaucracy of a system that treats patients like raw materials to be processed or rejected according to their value.
  • In the beginning, all of the actors are wearing lab coats, presenting themselves as health care providers. One by one, each actor removes their overcoat to expose their street clothes and tell their story. I considered this a compelling symbol that everyone eventually finds themselves on the receiving end of the system.
  • Although the large cast easily justifies the $20 ticket price, I noticed a lot of stumbles and hesitations, suggesting that some of the performers didn't rehearse enough before the show. I don’t expect to be dazzled at this price, but I expect the actors to at least know their lines.
  • I had a hard time feeling compassion for most of the characters, as it seemed they were complaining that they had to pay more than a few dollars for the care they received. In fact, in many cases, the charges sounded reasonable and the subjects seemed perfectly capable of paying for their out-of-pocket expenses and insurance premiums—they simply resented being expected to do so. 

While acknowledging whole-heartedly that the system is broken, my partner and I agreed that Unaffordably Unhealthy doesn't present a compelling argument about what specifically needs to be fixed, and doesn't offer a practical solution to the problem.

Andrew Andrews attended Unaffordably Unhealthy at The Tank The 99 in Manhattan on Thursday, February 27, 2020 @ 7:00pm to write this review.