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8/11/2010

The Arts

Performing Arts: Fuddy Meers
Seriously Fuddy business

 

Fuddy Meers
Through Aug. 23 at the Footlight Theatre, Parliament House Resort
410 N. Orange Blossom Trail
www.wanzie.com
$14

Among the things proved during the opening-night performance of Fuddy Meers is that Michael Wanzie should step in the director’s role more often. During his casual stage welcome at the Footlight Theatre, drink in hand, Wanzie claimed that it has been years since he’d actually directed a show and that this was his first time working with several of the actors, including the lauded Peg O’Keef, one member of the stellar ensemble cast that made for a hilarious evening of comic clockwork.

Also proved by this ridiculously twisted soap opera – the first play by David Lindsay-Abaire, which debuted in 1999 – is that life isn’t always stranger than fiction. The playwright’s disturbingly funny plot weaves an absurd tale, thick with delightfully odd characters, and it begins with that most common of daytime TV afflictions: amnesia. We meet Claire (Lori McCaskill), a bedridden mother of a teen son who starts every day as a blank slate; no matter what she learns during the day, it all disappears when she falls asleep at night. Her anal-retentive husband (Kevin Bee) appears to patiently dote on her, though we get weird vibes from the pot-smoking son (Josh Paul). 

Things get bizarre when the lisping Limping Man with a grotesquely disfigured ear (Boomer Pieta) kidnaps her and races to the home of her mother (O’Keef), whose speech is unintelligible due to a stroke. Hijinks ensue as Limping Man’s strange associates join the fray, including the sociopathic Millet (Tony Dietterick), whose true and filthy communications come through the mouth of his beloved hand puppet, and Heidi (Monique Byrnes), a police-uniformed accomplice in crime. 

There’s a darkness about repressed trauma that fills the heart of the comedy, but it’s as though Lindsay-Abaire’s dialogue coaxes inappropriate, naughty laughter out of the onlookers to dull the pain. Every actor contributed experienced nuance to make his or her character a memorable standout, but McCaskill’s steady evolution of Claire, from sunny to suspicious to satisfied, provides the axis off of which Fuddy Meers turns.

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