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Fuddy Meers at the Masquers

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By Theresa de Valence - Posted on 11 June 2010

Fuddy Meers, like the funny mirrors in a fun house carnival, is a wacky comedy. I’ll tell you right now, I neither liked nor understood it. That’s not to say the acting was poor; the plot and dialogue are just not my kind of humour. At intermission, I did a quick temperature test of the audience and discovered we were fairly evenly split: fully half of the respondents thought the play was side-splittingly funny. Certainly the audience howled throughout. Actually, I had another litmus test: I asked how well the interviewee liked Monty Python. Those that do, did; and those that don’t, didn’t. I rest my case.

First performed in 1999, Fuddy Meers was written by David Lindsay-Abare and is directed by Michael Haven. Claire, an amnesiac, wakes up each morning remembering nothing; so her family must teach her who she is, every day. When she is kidnapped, her adventures really begin!

The set is a tribute to Dave Wilkerson, a longtime Masquer set designer who died last December. It’s a complex affair, but cycles through two houses, the countryside, and over state lines. The set changes in marvellous ways: fluid and charming like a puzzle toy.

Claire (Sondra Putnam, photo left, left; photo below, centre) is the brightest character in the play; she has a sunny personality and wears the only quasi-costume: a pair of silky, brilliant red pyjamas. She flits across the stage, landing like a bird—her shiny hair swirls like a top coming to rest. Claire progresses from absolute innocence (where she remembers nothing), through developing memories, until she is able to make judgements about other characters. The transitions are smooth. She’s very refreshing—direct, amiable, and ready for anything.

Richard (George W. Adams Jr., photo above, right) is a dark horse. He begins as a solicitous, nurturing man; at the root of his person is a lone man, soldiering on in the face of life’s troubles—a laudable stance. However, I didn’t react well to Richard—his body language suggested to me that he’s duplicitous. We learn he is a reformed man and we get flashbacks to an old story. He becomes someone new—and then he morphs again. He’s an interesting character—but does one grow to admire him?

Kenny (Michael Garrett McDonald) demonstrates a perfect picture of rebelling youth—full of seething hostility and swearwords. We learn early in the play that he’s angry, though the reason for his angst does not become clear until much later. When Claire is abducted, he and Richard give chase to the kidnappers—and it is here Kenny’s character expands and his performance elevates to the magnificent.

Limping Man seems like a rôle designed for Ted Bigornia (photo left, right). He’s crazy, of course, in the way that Ted often brings to his rôles—but in this play, he’s keeping tight control of strong emotions just under the surface. The control slips now and then giving us a flash of the turmoil within. It’s an incredible performance.

Funnily enough there’s also a spot where Limping Man becomes precious, soft and loving. And I fall in love. I never would have guessed it.

Gertie (Jo Lusk, second photo, left) gives a commanding performance. She has been left with a disability resulting from a stroke, and has trouble speaking. In spite of this disadvantage, Gertie is a key player in Claire’s understanding of who she is, as well as our understanding of what’s going on in the play. Her actions and expressions are clear as a bell—almost completely without intelligible words. Well done!

Millet (David Irving) is having fun behaving like an overgrown child with numerous silly antics. Definitely he wins my Actor Most Enjoying Himself award. His shenanigans are preposterous and the audience clearly loves him.

Heidi (Bonnie Lafer) is a misfit. I had trouble determining how believable she was because the plot is so bizzare; in the beginning she is a surprisingly incompetent character. However, the longer she was on stage, the more credible I found her behaviour, though it becomes clear she is completely deluded. Heidi ranges from bullying to pleading. And she delivers some priceless expressions.

Author Lindsay-Abare says this “Ideally, I’d like the audience to approach the world of Fuddy Meers the way my main character does: as a totally game, fun-loving amnesiac with few judgements and no preconceived notions of what to expect.”

So, you’ve heard it from the writer’s mouth. If you like slapstick, especially with a dark twist, then you’ll love this play.

How did you feel about the play? Comments are welcome.

Fuddy Meers was performed June 4 - July 10, 2010, at the Masquers Theatre in Point Richmond, California. This review was also published in This Point In Time (TPIT), Vol. XXIX-1, June 2010, a publication of the Point Richmond History Association.