Home Entertainment Two Strangers (Carry A Cake Across New York) review: A scrumptious, giddily...

Two Strangers (Carry A Cake Across New York) review: A scrumptious, giddily glorious treat


Come on, who hasn’t danced around their hotel room, possibly a little hungover, in a bathrobe and green foam Statue of Liberty tiara? Especially after the best night of your life with the person of your dreams… Even if somehow you haven’t, you can feel every giddy emotion right alongside the extraordinary Sam Tutty as naive, hopelessly sweet Dougal in this small but beautifully, perfectly formed musical.

Riffing affectionately on romcom tropes, Jim Barne and Kit Buchan’s heartfelt new show only has two characters and two settings: joy and sheer joy. It’s already such a beloved hit with audiences that it has extended its run by six weeks.

Wide-eyed Brit Dougal arrives in New York for 36 hours to attend the nuptials of the long-lost father who scarpered before he was born. Met at the airport by the American bride’s jaded sister Robin (Dujonna Gift), he inserts himself into her life, wedding confectionary duties and all, and the fun begins.

The entire show is a triumph of simplicity. Two towering piles of luggage cleverly convert into hotel beds, a coffee shop counter or Chinatown restaurant booth, sidewalks and the base of the Statue of Liberty (which both impersonate).

The score is fresh and tuneful, the lyrics witty and wise, and the sensational stars breathe real life into it all. Both cried mid-song and scene on opening night as I wept, laughed and cheered them on. Pure bliss.

Olivier Award-winner Tutty (for Dear Evan Hansen) is an irresistible bundle of nerves and puppyish charm, overwhelmingly excited to be in a city he’s pretty sure he knows well from multiple viewings of Home Alone 2. He skips around, constantly beaming, talking to random people and invading Robin’s personal space (and peace of mind). In other hands, the character might be an Olympic stadium of red flags, but Tutty’s light touch and exquisite flashes of sensitivity just make you want a Dougal of your own.

The first act is a hilarious bumbling-innocent-abroad romp as these very opposites clash. Robin is late for work, and exhausted by her sister’s constant bridal demands. We start intuiting that she is unhappy with her life – and there is something darker swirling under her spikey surface resentments.

Dougal’s human golden retriever act slowly melts her reserve and eventually both throw caution (and personal and familial) barriers into the Hudson and run gloriously amok with the groom’s black Amex.

The second half goes deeper as two lost souls in desperate need of change collide, fuelled by attraction and circumstance. Buried hurts and painful truths surface to find comfort in connection and compassion before the cathartic end.

So many shows try so hard to impose a message, feel a need to tell us something they think we should know (and usually do already, thanks), or ham-fistedly want to demonstrate how clever and creative and cutting-edge they are. I hate those kind of shows.

I’m perfectly happy to think, but make me feel first. Two Strangers makes no bones about its roots in hopelessly hopeful romcoms. It gently offers us two very recognisable characters, both hurting, both missing something and both afraid to reach for it. It shows us the joys of seizing a moment, lowering a barrier, or simply taking a moment to breathe in the world around you.

I left the theatre feeling infinitely better than when I went in. I felt a little more hopeful. I stared at the extraordinary city passing by my bus windows on the way home. And I smiled.

TWO STRANGERS (CARRY A CAKE THROUGH NEW YORK) IS AT THE CRITERION THEATRE TO AUGUST 31

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