Review by Jake Laverde
Making its European debut at the small but perfectly formed Finborough Theatre, (deep breath) A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center of New York City to give it it’s full unwieldy title is a black comedy from NY playwright Halley Feiffer. Revolving around 2 visitors to said Gynecologic Oncology unit, aspiring young stand up Karla and vagrant-esque Don both there to see their mothers Marcie and Geena.
Initial impressions are hopeful. Even before the play starts, you’re thrust into this world when you walk upstairs into an impressive recreation of a sterile hospital ward. And there’s a great contrast in the cast, Cariad Lloyd as Karla is all colour and youth while Rob Crouch’s Don is suitably drab and decayed. There’s a lot to like here. If only that extended to the lumpy uneven script…
Without giving much away, the issues aren’t in the well-worn narrative of two opposites being thrust together. But the way we explore these characters is through overlong monologues that crop up too often at the strangest moments. At one point without warning, Don spouts an overly written piece of personal history that reaches for pathos but ends up at slightly tedious. These clunky, exposition-filled moments slow down the pace of an already slow burn to a crawl and pad out what should be a pacey 80 minutes.
This unevenness applies to the performances as well. Rob Crouch as Don is all wild eyed and pompous, almost like a living cartoon and commands the stage. However, Cariad Lloyd, a very capable comedic performer in just about everything else I’ve seen her in, struggles with her Noo Yoik accent. And as a result, struggles to inject Karla with the spark to make her come alive. Kristen Milward, however, is wonderfully dry as the blunt Marcie. And though Cara Chase doesn’t really get to do much as Geena, at one point she single-handedly steals the show. You’ll know it when you see it.
Perhaps the main problem here is that coming after both Lena Dunham’s Girls and Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag, A Funny Thing…‘s take on confessional millennials doesn’t really have much else to say about the inner turmoil of 20 something women (Not that I’m an expert myself mind you). All of its themes have been explored before and the script seems to reflect this insecurity by having its on the nose dialogue get in the way of actually showing us how fear of mortality affects us all. Even its final moment seems to go on for a few lines too long.
A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit… is on until 27 October at the Finborough Theatre https://www.finboroughtheatre.co.uk/productions/2018/a-funny-thing-happened.php