May 31, 2002
For more about Lynn Trenning, please visit her main page.
For more information about Actors Theatre, please visit actorstheatrecharlotte.org.
(aired 6/6/02 on WFAE)|
A reformed criminal, a disillusioned teenager and a mentally unstable man with a puppet are just three of the reasons I laughed myself to tears during the chaotic comedy, Fuddy Meers, a name which is based on a couple of mispronounced words. In their last offering of the season, Actor’s Theatre proves beyond a doubt, that you should never judge a good play by its bad name.
The play centers around a woman named Claire, who has psychogenic amnesia. This means that every morning she wakes up with no idea of who she is. And when you first meet the people she hangs out with, you may think that’s for the best. All are motivated by dubious intent, and for the majority of the play it’s hard to figure out who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. The grand thing is that it hardly matters. The plot eventually does make sense, but the fun is in the ride.
Fuddy Meers is teaming with uniquely flawed characters and great lines. As a bonus, several characters are endowed with ludicrous physical traits that are expeditiously exploited by an adroit cast. There is comedy written into each part, and amazingly, all of the actors in this play successfully tap into the humor. There are seven actors, and they are all good.
The play excels in the absurd. Though clearly in a ridiculous situation, Catherine Smith plays Claire with a sense of childlike adventure that adds authenticity to her daily search for identity. Smith imbues Claire with an appealing doe-eyed innocence. Though it’s clear that Claire’s illness is probably due to a tragic trauma, that never interferes with the hilarity of her plight. Playwright David Lindsay-Abaire stomps right through the tricky ground of mining comedy from physical flaws and debilitating illness. If individually analyzed, each of these characters are pathetic and in need of therapy. Woven together, they are clearly too wacky to be pitied.
In this vein Byron Miller is wonderful as a limping, disfigured man with a pronounced lisp. I felt perfectly fine laughing at everything about him. Equally engaging is Tommi Jones as Claire’s mother Gertie. Gertie had a stroke that robbed her of coherence. Her residual stroketalk is marvelous, and so is she, as she dodders about the stage, stiff as mop handle, with chartreuse curlers that match her fuzzy slippers.
Also inspiring is Mark Scarboro as Claire’s husband Richard, whose emotions veer giddily from anguish to mania. Maybe it was the second-hand smoke that makes me think so, but there was a scene in a car in the first act that ought to win a prize. Mark Sutton’s portrayal of Millet skillfully employed a dirty-mouthed puppet to reveal important plot details.
Chip Decker designed the surreal set. From a homey quilt covering a dark doorway in a scary basement, to a cross-sectioned stove, the stage oozed a sense of unreality. My only criticism was the use of nasty language at several junctions. It was unnecessary. This play doesn’t need gratuitous devices.
Lynn Trenning, May 31, 2002