The day after you see playwright Halley Feifer’s mouthful titled A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE GYNECOLOGIC ONCOLOGY UNIT AT SLOAN-KETTERING MEMORIAL CANCER CENTER OF NEW YORK CITY it might occur to you too that Harry should take Sally to a cancer ward on their second date. (Take that as an intriguing hint—not a spoiler.)
The play opens in a curtain partitioned hospital room where two older women lay in bed, seeming unconscious. Meanwhile Karla (Mary Williamson), a young woman with notebook in hand and with loud voice, tells permutation after permutation of vibrator rape jokes, admittedly a novel comedy genre, to her comatose cancer-fillled mother Marcie (Meg Thalken).
They aren’t especially funny jokes, but we are all laughing at the preposterous situation. The absurdity ratchets up quite a few notches when a man, Don (Stef Tovar), arrives on the other side of the curtain to visit his cancer-stricken mother (Judy Lea Steele). Unbelieving his ears, Don asks this foul-mouthed stranger to keep it down. She refuses and a war ensues, and then…more.
This story is a journey paved with a high-volume laugh track that you find yourself supplying. The mother, the daughter, the son, the son’s son- each a variation of what common parlance refers to as “a piece of work”. With raucous witticisms piled so thick in this script, and so many references to the selfishness that plagues our species, we don’t anticipate sentiment at the story’s core. In a short space though, Feiffer’s script carries us from tasteless rape jokes to supersweet tenderness.
Route 66 Theatre Assembles Stellar Cast
Maybe because would-be comic Karla explains that timing is everything when it comes to funny bits , you too may find yourself just reveling in the perfection of line delivery and gestures (Director: Keira Fromm). While the entire cast is top-notch, Stef Tovar’s performance is pitch perfect on steroids, making it worth the trip to see the play in and of itself.
Crisp and funny dialogue, well-drawn characters who are at once original and everyman, with flawless direction and acting—what’s not to like?
One- think twice about inviting a friend who is going through cancer treatment now or has just lost an intimate to the disease. It may be just what the doctor ordered—or not.
Two-It could have just been a fluke of opening night but the theater temperature went from meat locker to borderline frozen food aisle. All were complaining and many were shivering. If Den Theater can’t tame the thermostat in this new space perhaps they should consider posting blankets in each seat as Lifeline does. In the meantime, plan to wear several layers. No joke.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read — Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.
Note: an excerpt of this appears in Theatre in Chicago
Thru September 23, 2017
Thursdays and Fridays 7:30 PM
Saturdays 3:00 PM and 8:00 PM
Sundays 3:00 PM
1333 N. Milwaukee Avenue