July 31, 1989 12:00 PM

HBO (Sun., July 30, 10 P.M. ET)


This may sound like the bleakest show in the history of TV. But, trust me, it’s a riveting, unforgettable love story that will have you welling up for days afterward.

Forty-year-old actor Paul Linke, who played Officer Grossman on the TV series CHiPs, has created a one-man theater piece about his late wife, Francesca Draper, who was the mother of two of his children. After a valiant two-year battle with breast cancer, she died on March 27, 1985, at age 37. They’d been married 10 years. For 90 minutes Linke sits in a chair on a bare stage reliving their intense relationship, from their love-at-first-sight meeting to her being told she had cancer to her death at home with Linke holding her hand. Sad. Funny. Heartwarming. Linke’s story provokes a rainbow of emotions.

Linke, who performed the show onstage in Los Angeles and San Francisco, brilliantly illuminates his wife’s gentle personality. He grippingly portrays her frantic measures to take control of her dying body, from Laetrile treatments in Mexico to “psychic surgery” (in which operations are supposed to be performed by a kind of telepathy). She elected not to have chemotherapy. Even though we never see a photo of Draper, we come to know her intimately. Although Linke has crossed a line from acting to personal catharsis, the show is never self-indulgent, maudlin or actorish. Roger (Under Fire) Spottiswoode directed.

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