Two Strangers (Carry a Cake Across New York) has great performances at the Kiln Theatre but stretches its material thin
“The world keeps spinning, but you stay where you are”
Jim Barne and Kit Buchan’s Two Strangers (Carry a Cake Across New York) was first seen in at Northampton’s Royal and Derngate in 2019 under the title The Season but re-emerges now at the Kiln Theatre with a much more substantial title, perhaps with an eye to the festive rom-com market to which it plays rather heavily. And with two excellent performances elevating the show, there are pleasures to be found here.
Dougal has come to New York City for the first time for the wedding of his father, even though he’s never actually met him. Sent to pick him up at JFK is Robin, the sister of the much-younger bride, who also has to pick up the wedding cake from Brooklyn and thus the meet-cute is set. And over the next couple of days, we get to see whether the festive vibes of NYC at Christmas-time are real or just an invention of the movies.
Sam Tutty’s Dougal is all puppyish excitement and open-hearted whereas Dujonna Gift’s Robin is much cagier about her feelings, already bruised by the world. Barne and Buchan match this contrast with an eclectic grab-bag of songs which whilst appealing, never quite coalesce into a distinct musical identity. Lyrically though, there’s great work throughout which goes a long way to keeping us engaged and chuckling.
Tim Jackson’s production looks good too, with Soutra Gilmour’s carousel-based design a neat touch. But I’m not so sure that the show establishes enough dramatic stakes to justify the running time here, it feels over-stretched for what it is, without much emotional substance materialising to enhance the relatively straight-forward plotting. Even without this depth though, Tutty and Gift do some good work.