Review - Two Strangers (Carry a Cake across New York)
Updated: Nov 22
Playing until 20th January 2024
Dougal (Sam Tutty) arrives in New York to attend his dad’s wedding, whom he had never met. Robin (Dujonna Gift) was sent by her sister, Sam’s future step-mother, to pick Dougal up from the airport. Robin is instantly put off by Dougal’s enthusiasm and childlike behaviour as he expresses his excitement of being in New York and the prospect of seeing his father for the first time. Dougal joins Robin on her trip to pick up the wedding cake, and as the two starts to get to know each other, an unlikely relationship blossoms.
Dougal is optimistic and enthusiastic, and he only knows the New York he saw on TV and in movies, which is grand and full of opportunities. Robin on the other hand is a waitress in a coffee shop, who is struggling to make ends meet and sent around town by her sister on various pre-wedding errands. However, Robin isn’t going to the wedding and neither is she welcomed there. There is a stark contrast between Dougal and Robin’s views of New York and their outlook on life. Although neither knows what they want to do or to achieve, Robin isn’t satisfied with what she has, while Dougal works in a cinema but perfectly happy. Dougal has this inspirational effect on Robin and the audience, and we can’t help but feel joyful when confronted with Dougal’s overwhelming optimism.
Two Strangers (Carry a Cake across New York) shares many similarities with the romantic comedy genere that come out around Christmas time. Two people with almost opposite personalities are brought together by an unlikely event, but they are always able to see a part of the other person that they themselves could not see. Taking this tried and tested recipe, the writers (Jim Barne and Kit Buchan), are clearly cognisant of where this show fits and what the audience is looking for around this time of year.
Sam Tutty returns to the stage for the first time since Dear Evan Hansen closed more than a year ago, of which his portrayal of the titular character earned him a number of awards including the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Musical. While on the surface Evan and Dougal’s characters appear very different, the two are actually quite alike, particularly when it comes to excessive talking as an anxiety coping mechanism. Tutty showcases his flexibility as an actor, capturing the essence of these two contrasting characters despite the fact the two share very similar basic speech patterns and traits. Tutty conveys dougal’s optimism through his animated movements and almost immediately with one of the early musical numbers “New York!”. Similarly, Dujonna Gift is no less than impressive playing the role of Robin, who is sarcastic and embarrassed by Dougal the moment they met. Gift takes the audience on a journey as she goes from trying to ditch Dougal at every opportunity to trying to protect him from the harsh realities that await him. Her character undergoes a much more significant change than Dougal’s, regaining her confidence, accepting her past and decides to move on by the end of the show.
The musical numbers are composed of both pop tunes, and conversational rhymes, the latter demonstrated through the number “On the App”, which is a constant back and forth between Dougal and Robin as they review the men that come up on tinder. The mix of musical style creates contrast between the scenes and surprising the audience at the same time.
The rotating stage is littered with suitcase structures of different sizes, which are used flexibly to create different scenes and locales. While the staging is generally effectively, there is a little too much going around and through the two mountains of suitcases, at times even interrupting the flow of a scene. Toward the end, on the way to the airport, snow begins to fall onto the centremost part of the stage and while the two characters acknowledge the snow quite quickly, they continue to walk and circle to peripheries (where there isn't any snow) for quite a while longer before they climb up the suitcases and embrace the snow scene fully.
Two Strangers (Carry a Cake across New York) is an upbeat and charming musical. It is not intended to be complicated, nor does it need to rely on thought provoking concepts in order to capture the core elements that make romcoms successful.
Writers: Jim Barne, Kit Buchan
Director and Choreographer: Tim Jackson
Musical Director: Sean Green