Life is already chaotic and amusing enough when your life is somewhat normal. Add in a peculiar twist and your day can really take a left turn into the Twilight Zone. “Good morning. How are you? How would you like to get dressed. You really like this dress. Would you like to have some breakfast?” “Yes, thank you. Oh, what an awful dress. Do I really like this dress? By the way, who are you? And…who am I?” How would you like it if your day started this way? What if every day started this way?Welcome to the bizarre but comedic world of Fuddy Meers, where Claire (MiRan Powell) has a case of traumatically induced amnesia and awakens each morning tabula rasa without any of her personal memories. She awakens and is greeted by her very nice, but unfamiliar, husband Richard (Kevin Hasser), and her oh-so-very teenage son Kenny (Jacob Yeh).
When Richard leaves her briefly, she is surprised by the odd Limping Man (Matt Dewberry) who suggests that Richard is not as nice as he appears to be and convinces Claire to leave with him. They flee to the house of Claire’s mother, Gertie (Jane Margulies Kalbfeld), a recovering stroke victim who cannot speak clearly. In her twisted aphasia, she tries to convince Claire of something using a photo she says was taken in the titular “funny mirrors” (or funhouse mirrors) of a nearby amusement park, but only confuses things even more. Soon they are joined by Limping Man’s eccentric friend, Millet (Doug Mattingly) who often gets into hilarious trouble when his garrulous puppet, Binky, reveals things that Millet is not supposed to talk about. While searching for Claire, Richard and Kenny encounter Heidi (Nevie Brooks) and end up bringing her along to Gertie’s place. Once everyone is in the same place at the same time, all mayhem breaks loose and crescendos to a gut-busting funny Act I finale to rival many a fantastic farce.
Act II resumes where Act I left off presenting so many plot twists that even the most seasoned theatergoer should still be surprised by at least one of the unexpected revelations by play’s end.
The relatively young, 1st Stage of Tysons (only in its third season) has managed to draw some pretty solid talent to this production. Of particular note, Mattingly is charmingly bizarre. He is particularly magnetic and one feels for his situation and his odd dependence on his Binky persona. His mannerisms and body language are particularly appropriate for the child-like Millet. Dewberry also manages to really capture the peculiar Limping Man from his almost Tourettes-like dialogue to the physicality of the deformed character. And Kalbfeld has some of the hardest lines trying to actually get meaning across from the twisted gibberish that the playwright subjects her to. It is often said that that it is twice as hard to act with either no lines or nonsensical lines and Kalbfeld surmounts the challenge and with careful phrasing and wonderful physical acting manages to convey what is needed from her lines.
Yeh is quite impressive when he is active in scenes with lines, but shows some loss of energy and character when not speaking that is sometimes distracting. Hasser’s used car salesman character is quite funny, but unfortunately is a little too one-dimensional and doesn’t seem very natural when revealing his darker past. As the central point-of-innocence character, Powell carries the audience with her on her tour of discovery. While she seems line-perfect, she doesn’t seem to be sufficiently emotionally invested in uncovering what is happening in the world around her and doesn’t help hold the audience’s focus. Brooks’ character is unfortunately uneven. While she does well as the stern Jekyll-side character we are first introduced to, as her character unravels she doesn’t manage to handle her Hyde-side as well.
David Lindsay-Abaire’s first play, Fuddy Meers, was well received in its 1999 Off-Broadway debut, winning several awards. The play is wonderfully funny and director Lee Mikeska-Gardner has done some excellent work with the production. The blocking—especially that Act I showstopper finale—is quite good.
Unfortunately, the biggest problem with the show was the pacing. Instead of speeding along smoothly like the comedy needs, the pacing was choppy and so despite some very funny material, it didn’t always achieve all that it could. The script is quite entertaining in its own offbeat way. With some work, this show can be a real comedy feast.
Fuddy Meers plays thru Feb 27, 2011 at 1st Stage, 1524 Spring Hill Rd, McLean, VA.
By David Lindsay-Abaire
Directed by Lee Mikeska-Gardner
Produced by 1st Stage in Tysons
Reviewed by Ted Ying
Running Time: 1:50 including one 15-minute intermission