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Edited and Published by Robert W. McDowell
October 27, 2022 Issue
A FREE Weekly E-mail Newsletter Covering Theater, Dance, Music, and Film in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill/Carrboro Area of North Carolina Since April 2001.
PART 2A: TRIANGLE THEATER REVIEW BY KURT BENRUD
David Lindsay-Abaire's Fuddy Meers Is a Wacky
Comedy, a Wild Ride of Hilarious Twists and Turns
Switchyard Theatre Company's cast for Fuddy Meers includes (clockwise, from left): Jason Christ as Richard, Julie Oliver as Gertie,
Romane Durham as Millet, Maggie Lee as Claire, Jacob Berger as Kenny, Pat Luftman as Heidi, and Thom Haynes as Limping Man
Mark your calendars! Switchyard Theatre Company's production of David Lindsay-Abaire's Fuddy Meers has three more performances -- at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, Oct. 26-28 -- in Burning Coal Theatre Company's Murphey School Auditorium in Raleigh, NC. It is directed by Jeff Aguiar, and you really do not want to miss it.
Among the Lakota, there is a mythological creature named Iktomi. Stories of Iktomi's wild adventures often begin by reminding listeners that he has "no mind at all," and that, while he does have the capacity to learn, he forgets everything as soon as he goes to sleep. These stories invariably end thus: "Iktomi learned a valuable lesson that day; and then he went to sleep."
David Lindsay-Abaire's Fuddy Meers makes use of this concept. On one level, Fuddy Meers is simply a wacky comedy, a wild ride of hilarious twists and turns that can actually leave the audience's minds twisting and turning. On another level, it raises some serious questions about the concept of knowledge in our lives -- What do we know? How do we know it? What can we learn? How can we learn it? Who are we? How do we fit into "the cosmic scheme of things"? Who (and what) can we trust?
Claire (played by Maggie Lea) has total amnesia; she wakes up each morning with no memory of her life or even of her own name. On this particular day, within a few minutes, she meets Richard and Kenny (portrayed by Jason Christ and Jacob Berger), is told that they are her husband and her son, and is given a loose-leaf notebook that contains photos and important facts to remind her of who she is.
Once the two of them have left Claire's bedroom, a character wearing a ski mask -- identified in the program as "Limping Man" (played by Thom Haynes) -- emerges from under her bed. (Isn't that where monsters live?!?) He identifies himself as her brother Zach, and claims that he has come to save her, because Richard intends to kill her.
The two jump into a car and embark on the long drive to Claire's mother's house. At Claire's request, Zach removes his mask to reveal a badly scarred face, and we also learn that he is half-blind and half-deaf.
Claire's mother Gertie (portrayed by Julie Oliver) is a stroke victim and is unable to speak properly. Two facts, however, are immediately obvious: (1) Gertie is, indeed, Claire's mother and is glad to see her; and (2) Gertie harbors a serious dislike for Zach. They are soon joined by an odd man named Millet (played by Romane Durham) and his foul-mouthed hand puppet "Hinky Binky," and Millet seems to have no control over what comes out of the puppet's mouth.
Meanwhile, Richard and Kenny jump into a car and head for Gertie's to save Claire from Zach (who might actually be Phil). Speeding, they are stopped by Heidi (portrayed by Pat Luftman). Is she really a cop who simply prefers an over-sized police uniform? Or will we soon meet yet another twist?
Switchyard Theatre Company will stage David Lindsay-Abaire's Fuddy Meers on Oct. 20-23
and 26-28 in Burning Coal Theatre Company's Murphey School Auditorium in Raleigh
As Claire, Maggie Lea is totally believable. We accept without question that she knows nothing about herself, and we are "on board with her" as she accepts, rejects, or questions each piece of "information" that she is served.
As Limping Man, Thom Haynes is appropriately "goofy." Additionally, Haynes imbues his performance with a hint of "artificiality" that suggests from the onset that he is not being totally honest with Claire. And what is up with Limping Man and bacon?
Romane Durham convinces us that Millet is totally clueless about his own "condition"; and Jason Christ (as Richard) and Jacob Berger (as Kenny) play off each other quite well in their father-son scene and integrate nicely into the ensemble when everyone has arrived at Gertie's.
Pat Luftman navigates her way nicely from "hard-boiled cop" to "hopeful lover" to "spurned lover"; and Julie Oliver (as Gertie) is remarkable. Frequently, the words that come out of Gertie's mouth are pure gibberish; but Oliver "plays" the meaning so well that we are never in doubt regarding what she is trying to say. (Ironically, the characters occasionally are in doubt.)
All production values are strong, but I feel inclined to single out two aspects: (1) The "fractured nature" of the set, designed by Jeff Aguiar and Charles Machalicky (and built by Jim Azarelo), is totally appropriate; and (2) Jill Cromwell, who is credited with "Special Effects Makeup Design," should be especially proud of Limping Man's makeup/prosthetics.
Although I didn't actually time anything, I am sure that I do not exaggerate when I say that this show provides "a laugh a minute."
From the Department of Picky-Picky:
- For no apparent reason, two different "technologies" are used to signify driving a car. Why?
- Limping Man's limp is inconsistent. Perhaps (in this world of uncertainty), we are meant to question whether or not he is simply "putting it on." However, if that were the case, I would expect it to be a little more obvious that he is turning it on and off and that certain circumstances dictate when he does and does not feign having a bad leg.
- I found myself a bit unclear regarding the stage left exterior "wall" of Gertie's house. If my initial understanding of it was correct, characters walk through this wall later in the play. Once again, this might have been intentional, but if so: Why?
Note: The 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 26th, performance is billed as Industry Night, a night on which actors, designers, and technicians who are involved in other shows might be free to attend. Additionally, Switchyard Theatre Company will be hosting a preshow "social hour" in the lobby, starting at 6:45 p.m. Rumor has it that "interesting people" and "free snacks" will be available, and admission is only $10 that night. Click on the image below for complete instructions.
David Lindsay-Abaire's FUDDY MEERS (In Person at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, Oct. 26-28), directed by Jeff Aguiar and starring Maggie Lea as Claire, Jason Christ as Richard, Jacob Berger as Kenny, Thom Haynes as Limping Man, Julie Oliver as Gertie, Romane Durham as Millet, Pat Luftman as Heidi (Switchyard Theatre Company in Burning Coal Theatre Company's Murphey School Auditorium in Raleigh). THE PRESENTER: https://switchyardtheatrecompany.org/, http://www.facebook.com/switchyardtc, and https://instagram.com/switchyardtc. THE VENUE: https://burningcoal.org/plan-your-visit/ and https://burningcoal.org/history-of-the-murphey-school/. DIRECTIONS/PARKING: https://burningcoal.org/plan-your-visit/. COVID PRECAUTIONS: https://burningcoal.org/covid-precautions/. THE PLAY: https://www.dramatists.com/cgi-bin/db/single.asp?key=2895, http://www.iobdb.com/Production/176, and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuddy_Meers. THE SCRIPT (excerpts): https://books.google.com/books. THE PLAYWRIGHT: http://www.iobdb.com/CreditableEntity/198, https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/david-lindsay-abaire-389683, https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1865755/, and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Lindsay-Abaire. TICKETS: $25 ($10 students and $20 seniors 65+), plus taxes and fees. Click here to buy tickets. INFORMATION: email@example.com. PLEASE DONATE TO: Switchyard Theatre Company.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Kurt Benrud is a graduate of Cary High School and N.C. State University, and he has taught English at both. He first became involved in local theater in 1980. He has served on the board of directors for both the Cary Players and the Cary Playwrights' Forum. He is also a volunteer reader with North Carolina Reading Service. Click here to read his reviews for Triangle Review.
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