Sunday, January 4, 2015

"2 Sugars, Room for Cream" at Park Square Theatre

Next Sunday, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, two of the funniest women in America, will host the Golden Globes. Until then, we have Shanan Custer and Carolyn Pool, two of the funniest women in the Twin Cities, presiding over a delightful evening of comedy, friendship, and coffee. Their 2008 Fringe hit 2 Sugars, Room for Cream has gone through many incarnations, including stints at the New Century Theatre in 2012 and the Jerome Hill Theater in 2013, won an Ivey Award, and has now landed on Park Square Theatre's new Andy Boss thrust stage. Even though this is the third time I've seen it and many of the scenes and characters are familiar to me, it still makes me laugh until I cry, and marvel at the universality of life experiences, and the thing that binds us all together - coffee. From bad church basement coffee to the gourmet stuff at fancy coffee shops, it's a running theme in many of our lives and helps us get through the day, and the long cold winter. This show is a celebration of that, but more so a celebration of friendship and laughter.

2 Sugars, Room for Cream, written and performed by Shanan and Carolyn under the direction of Matt Sciple, is a sketch comedy made up of a dozen or so short vignettes all centered around coffee. Two women bonding over books at a coffee shop, sisters at a funeral, employees on a coffee break, two women who didn't like each other so much 20 years ago reconnecting at their high school reunion, a picky customer at a diner, a worried new mom being comforted by a stranger on a park bench, all of it happens over coffee. The funeral and reunion stories are revisited several times throughout the show, with the funeral story providing some of the more poignant moments as the sisters laugh, drink (something stronger than coffee), and cry through the big issues of life and death. While most scenes are two-character scenes, each woman also gets a solo scene, Shanan as a frazzled mom constructing an all too honest Christmas letter, and Carolyn as a woman recording a video for her unborn daughter encouraging her to be strong, confident, and smart.

After years of performing and fine-tuning the show, Carolyn and Shanan have developed a comfort level with each other and the material. They both come across as genuine in their characterizations and in their easy chemistry with each other. While the show is scripted, there does seem to be some room to play a little within the confines of the script. And there are a few musical moments as well, as the two duet on wistful, funny, original songs.

The set (designed by Sadie Ward) is just darling and much more elaborate than previous versions of the show. A coffee cart holds all the necessary refreshments in various forms, the chairs at the table are trimmed in pink, as is the bench in the back, and either side of the stage holds pink shelves littered with things our characters (and/or actors) like. Photos of inspirational women like Tina and Amy, Mindy, Lucy, Rosemary, and Barbra are mixed in with tchotchkes, Girl Scout cookies, and so many things I wanted to wander by and peruse the shelves for a good long while.

2 Sugars, Room for Cream is only playing for three short weeks, through January 18*. If you've never seen these two smart and hilarious women before, do yourself a favor and head on down to St. Paul, grab a cup of coffee, and lose yourself in laughter. And if you have seen them before, you don't need me to tell you how fabulous this show is and worthy of a second (third, fourth...) viewing!

*As seen in the bottom half of the above program, the Andy Boss stage will next be home to another completely delightful and unique show, Trick Boxing, in which husband and wife dance team Brian Sostek and Megan McClellan play multiple characters and tell a charming story using dance, puppets, and other innovative theatrical tricks. Last seen locally at the Guthrie in 2012.

This article also appears on Broadway World Minneapolis.