Thursday September 21st 2017

“A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Gynecological Oncology Unit At Sloan-Kettering Memorial Cancer Center Of New York City”

I have to say that the hardest part of writing this review is the space the title takes! Try to imagine the zaniness that had to go through the mind of its creator, playwright Halley Feiffer, as she wrote down “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Gynecological Oncology Unit At Sloan-Kettering Memorial Cancer Center Of New York City”! What a mouthful! But what a delightful piece of work. To make life easier, from the point, I will refer to the title as “A Funny Thing” (just to save space so I can tell you all you need to know).

Route 66 Theatre Company ends its smash 9th season with this Chicago Premiere, which one might have expected a larger company to get. It is great to see that even the playwrights recognize that our Chicago smaller theater companies are worth looking at. This story takes place in a hospital room shared by two women who are on “death’s bed” so to speak. From the title you can tell where this is and the time is now! Each of these women has a visitor that comes often and they are in fact, the story. Karla (an amazing character developed by Mary Williamson) is twenty-something and a comedienne whose entire act is “dirty” sits with her mother Marcie ( Meg Thalken is understated in this role) going over her material. On the other side of the curtain (which in a shared room is the wall between the patients) lays Geena ( Judy Lea Steele) who lays asleep.

Enter Geena’s son, Don ( played to perfection by Stef Tovar) a middle-aged man who is going through a rough divorce and is very concerned about his mother. Marcie is his mother’s new “roomie” and Don is taken aback immediately by the crudeness of Karla and her disrespect for Geena. What takes place during this 90 minute production (no intermission) is these two opening up their hearts and souls to each other. Expressing their ups and downs. These are flawed human beings, maybe to the extreme, but as Feiffer gets into their minds, we begin to see the human side to each, as do they.

Directed to perfection by Keira Fromm, this play has some great surprises. There are moments of comedy where you will hear some of the loudest laughter ever, and then, moments later, you will feel a tear swell up in your eye. There is magic in this production and even if you have had a loved one living the life portrayed on the stage of The Den Theatre, you will have warm feelings for these characters . For most of the play, it is just Tovar and Williamson, despite their mothers being onstage with them. I am sure it is difficult to be an actor and have to just lay there for long periods, but these two ladies are great at it. Thalken seems to be enjoying her role a great deal.

Both of these characters are going through personal situations and have been, for the most part, doing it alone. Now, this chance meeting that has brought them together is about to allow them changes that may or may not involve each other, but will take place. This is a show that you should place on your MUST SEE list.

Hats off to the set designer , Courtney O’Neill. It sure looked like the room my brother was in. The tech aspects of this show were outstanding; from the costumes (Mieke Van der Ploeg), lighting (Claire Margaret Chrzan), sound (Christopher Kriz) to the props (Amanda Hermann). There is another production person -the intimacy coordinator (Sasha Smith), who does a bang up job on the bathroom scene between Don and Karla. While for many, this might be classified an X -rated scene, it is well execute and quite hysterical. I guess the big question for Route 66 is, “how can you top this next season?”.

“A Funny Thing” will continue at The Den Theatre (the new Bookspan Theater) located on the first floor at 1333 N. Milwaukee Avenue thru September 23rd with performances as follows:

Thursdays  7:30 p.m.

Fridays  7:30 p.m.

Saturdays  3 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Sundays  3 p.m.

Tickets are $35 ($20 students ) and seating is open. To order yours visit www.route66theatre.org

Parking is a meter situation but on weekends, The Den offers valet parking.

To see what others are saying, visit http://www.theatreinchicago.com go to Review Round-Up and click at “A Funny Thing, you know the rest.

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