Mistaken identity, mad cap antics, slamming doors, sexual intrigue and infamous bouts of skirt chasing lust. A Flea in Her Ear, packed with all of the above, is an exhilarating time with a fun-loving cast hell-bent on smack-down delivery. In what is becoming a Constellation-style characteristic, the unmistakable handiwork of director Allison Arkell Stockman, the large ensemble is a flurry of movement, with each actor fully engaged in driving its pedal-to-the-metal pace, while simultaneously being staunchly committed to his or her own character’s delivery. It’s quite amazing to witness. A Flea in Her Ear rollicks along even more deliriously than usual because one of the characters has a doppelganger role, creating a cascade of chaotic situations resulting in howls of laughter, and this is not an exaggeration. The build-up and crescendo that crests in the first act had me doubled over in tears. Nothing topped that, but as fun and funny as it was, nothing had to.
Many of the usual Constellation suspects are joined with other best and bright stars in the theater scene and oh, how they shine. Katie Atkinson sparkles as the lady of the house, Raymonde, who suspects her husband of infidelity, succumbing to the “flea in her ear” doubt and insecurity. With the assistance of consistently reliable Heather Haney playing her friend Lucienne, she sets up a plan to entrap him, enticing him with a smoky letter from a “secret admirer” to meet at the notorious “Frisky Puss Hotel.”
Needless to say, with four frolicking couples, multiple doors, a revolving boudoir, abundant amorous undertones, a delicious house maid and an endearing nephew who just wants to be able to pronounce his words with consonants, mayhem ensues as the couples interweave in and out of each other’s lives, pursuing (or being pursued) in their multiple quests. Joe Brackl is a standout with superb physical presence and charm as a family friend with misplaced affections. His delivery, expressions and cartoonish pratfall are exquisite. Matthew McGloin is a Constellation newcomer who plays the consonant deprived nephew with incredible precision and a gifted Martin Short-type delivery. Ashley Ivey as the preening Doctor, along with the rugged hunking stamina of Joseph Thornhill and solid support by Frank Britton, Stephanie Roswell and others assure a funfest treat.
But it doesn’t stop there. The magic in the piece is in the duo performance of the husband, played by the skillful Michael Glenn. A mainstay performer of over forty roles in the metro area, Glenn’s performance here will surely be recognized as a highlight of his career. He has a mastery of the inner core and nuance of his characters that elevates the performance beyond simple behavioral and vocal distinctions around which everything else whirls and twirls. Glenn assures a solid foundation for the entire romping fromping production, with Stockman keeping everything in check for a well defined and articulated melee.
The design team is in lockstep with the director’s creative vision. The set by the always on top of his game, A. J. Guban, stretches across the length of the stage in a series of doors and entrances, including an intriguing and slight double passageway that thrusts slightly in the middle, facilitating character movement and breaks what would have otherwise been a back and forth linear line. Costume designer Kendra Rai created exquisite apparel including chartreuse and fuscia satin frocks for the ladies and the Doctor’s classic pale lavender suit, with fetching appeal. Original musical interludes by Jesse Terrill also worked to enhance the story as did lighting also by Guban. All of the design details reflect the artistry of this still relatively young company, and the entire package helps show why it got the 2009 John Aniello Helen Hayes award for outstanding emerging theater company.
The rest of the season with Three Sisters and The Ramayana, an epic tale from India that balances adventure and spiritualism should showcase the company’s continuing stellar appeal, true to its mission of “visionary design, heighted physicality, epic, ensemble theatre.”
With A Flea in Her Ear, Constellation has done it again and points assuringly to more spectacularly good works to come.
A Flea in Her Ear
A new Version of Georges Feydeau’s Farce, by David Ives
Directed by Allison Arkell Stockman
Produced by Constellation Theater
Reviewed by Debbie Minter Jackson