It’s My Funeral, and I’ll Laugh If I Want To

As If Theatre Company deals in expansive topics through small and specific human stories. Its latest, a sharp British comedy, follows that theme but cranks up the laughs — a feat in a show about death. Colder Than Here runs through March 30 in Kenmore. 

It’s easier if you find the funny, believe me.

Myra is dying, to begin with; there is no doubt whatever about that. We know the bone cancer has given her a clock, and it’s starting to wear her down. In between flare-ups of unimaginable pain, she’s got overarching exhaustion and creakiness to deal with.  

But first, she’s got some planning to do. To the deep discomfort of her husband and two 20-something daughters, Myra is actively planning her own burial. It’s going to be a green affair in a cardboard coffin, and she’s on the hunt for a suitable tree-filled plot.

Also, can the family just get along? But maybe not that well — she hasn’t spent all these years dealing with their squabbling just to have everyone wait until she’s gone to be pleasant. 

Colder Than Here, by Laura Wade, is a 2005 British play about a family who’s achieved a comfortable equilibrium of apartness. The parents sleep in separate rooms. The favored daughter drops by for the symphony with dad; the fuck-up daughter has a wanker of a boyfriend no one likes. The husband is an experienced pro at ignoring uncomfortable things — which, in this play, is most everything — literally hiding behind a newspaper as they go on around him. And then there’s Myra, in full-on what-have-I-got-to-lose acceptance mode — if she’s grieving herself, we don’t see much of it — and getting things done. She wants her family left in a good-enough state, and she’s ready to have all the awkward conversations (sex, coffins, bodily functions) the whole family would rather avoid. She’s even made a PowerPoint. 

It’s that unabashed awkwardness, along with a well-delivered dry British humor, that makes this play about serious things so fun to watch. The cast works terrifically well together — led by As If co-founder Amy Gentry as matriarch Myra, with Josephine Cessna and Katie Dreessen (as daughters Jenna and Harriet), and Bradley Goodwill (as husband Alec). And while I usually dread fake-accent shows (inevitably, audience imaginations work better than terrible accents), this cast gets it quite right, with help from dialect coach Marianna de Fazio.

Director Cindy Giese French hits the humor balance right on, with laugh lines that don’t feel cheap or cruel, even as the conversations dance through topics as fraught as missing pets, end-of-life planning, and eating disorders. On the most frank conversations about death, the play is often straddling the uncomfortable line of Oh shit, is that tragic or funny? 

Like much in life, there’s plenty of both. Thankfully, this play never makes you feel bad about laughing in places that might otherwise tilt into heartbreak. Rather, it invites it. 

I haven’t had a belly laugh this good in a while. And yes, it’s strange that it happens during a PowerPoint presentation from someone prepping their own funeral. Welcome to the beautiful absurdity of Colder Than Here

Colder Than Here runs through 3/30 at the Kenmore Community Club. Tickets are $27, here. Pay-what-you-choose tickets are offered for the second weekend of performances (3/21-24). Accessibility notes: restrooms are gendered and multi-stall. Theatre and common areas are wheelchair accessible.

Run time: 1 hour 45 minutes, no intermission.

Chase D. Anderson is Editor & Producer of