Case in point: Halley Feiffer’s new play, now having its west coast premiere at the Geffen Playhouse. It’s called “A
Only it isn’t very funny. It involves a ditzy stand-up comic who never stops talking and a scruffy-looking man who wants only to sit quietly and read his New Yorker. They are inhabiting the shared hospital room of their mothers, who are both dying of cancer.
She, Karla, is played by the playwright, Halley Feiffer. He, Don, is played by Jason Butler Warner. They couldn’t be more emotionally mismatched.
Karla’s comedy deals almost exclusively with sex and as the play opens she is rhapsodizing about her vibrator, even though her mother, Marcie (JoBeth Williams) is asleep and unresponsive for the first two/thirds of the play.
In the other bed Don’s mother (Eileen T’Kaye) lies comatose and only wakes up to die.
Gradually Karla and Don stop screaming at each other long enough to talk about their lives. He is divorced and has an adopted son who texts him periodically to berate him and swear at him. As Don is dressed in a shabby jacket with torn arm patches and sweat pants, Karla tells him he looks like a homeless person. But when he reveals that he started a dating site called PerfectWedding.com that he eventually sold for a goodly sum, she says, “I like you better now that I know you’re a billionaire.”
And from there they move to a sex scene that starts on the floor of the hospital room and winds up in the bathroom, with her moaning loudly throughout.
Finally Karla’s mother, Marcie, wakes up and begins to attack her daughter unmercifully. She is cruel and sarcastic, but she does have some funny lines. And Karla, who never stops talking, moves around spasmodically and offers solace to Don when his mother dies. To which Marcie adds, consolingly, “Your mother looked more dead when she was alive.”
The production is well-directed by Trip Cullman, and Scenic Designer Lauren Helpern has provided an attractive and very authentic hospital room with switches and electric outlets along the wall and a hospital curtain between the beds that Karla and Don keep sliding open and closed.
But even though Karla and Don eventually stop hollering at each other, you know their relationship, if they have one, is bound to remain dysfunctional.
This play, whose title I won’t repeat because I’m running out of paper, will run Tuesday through Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 and 7 p.m. through October 8.
The Geffen Playhouse is located at 10886 Le Conte Avenue in Los Angeles, and tickets can be purchased by calling (310) 208-5454 or online athttp://www.geffenplayhouse.org/a-funny-thing.