“I’ve been single so long I’ve started having sex dreams about my vibrator.” The opening line of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center of New York City by Halley Feiffer gives a pretty accurate flavour of the jokes on offer, in a play that does everything it can to resist being a typical cancer story.
On a pastel pink hospital ward Geena (Cara Chase) and Marcie (Kristin Milward), lie in beds haloed with Georgia O’Keeffe-inspired vagina artworks. But the story isn’t really about these patients, it’s about their adult offspring, Don (Rob Crouch) and Karla (Cariad Lloyd), who come to visit and form an unlikely friendship.
As the oddly-matched pair, Crouch and Lloyd have a convincing chemistry and ease around each other. Lloyd cracks endless off-colour one-liners while also conveying a palpable vulnerability, and Crouch has the constant aura of ‘only-just-holding-it-together-ness’.
Making its European premiere in a production directed by Bethany Pitts, Feiffer’s comedy explores several interesting ideas including the contrast between the way we normally discuss female genitalia (sex jokes, slang terms) and the reality of the unspoken disease the women have.
However it’s also frustratingly slight and overly focused on the younger visitors (Don’s mother gets one line of dialogue). The humour is also pretty one note too, which is a shame because beneath the vag-and-sex-toys gags is the start of an interesting reflection on our clumsy attempts at loving one other.