Photo by Kevin Berne

Joan Mankin as Gertie, Lance Gardner as Millet and Tim True as Limping Man in David Lindsay-Abaire’s Fuddy Meers at Marin Theatre Company through April 24.

FUDDY MEERS: Comedy/Farce by David Lindsay‑Abaire. Directed by Ryan Rilette. Marin Theatre Company (MTC), 397 Miller Ave, Mill Valley, CA 94941. 415-388-5208 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 415-388-5208 end_of_the_skype_highlighting or www.marintheatre.org. March 31 through April 24, 2011


Last year we had the pleasure of seeing Fuddy Meers at The Masquers, a non-Equity theater in Point Richmond. It was a hysterical romp and we looked forward to another evening of fun at the award winning Marin Theatre Company. It was not to be. As a possible explanation, we attended the evening performance one day after the opening. Theatre aficionados warn that there can a huge emotional let down in the cast after the adrenaline of opening night(s).

If you are wondering who is Fuddy Meers, forget it. He ain't a "he" or "she." It refers to "funny mirrors" found in a fun-house. Those mirrors distort one's image and is an allegorical symbol for the wacky, wonderful, hilarious, irreverent yet hopeful plot of David Lindsay-Abaire's play. The author was one of Christopher Durang's (writer of the infamous Sister Mary Ignatius Explains it All For You) pupils at the Juilliard School and his influence is very apparent. That is good if you like dysfunctional families and plot twists to keep you guessing throughout the evening.

Let's take a " what if" scenario. What if you awakened every morning with psychogenic amnesia with no memory of whom you are and where you are and this has been going on for three years? This is what happens to Claire (Molly Stickney) every morning. After the alarm clock rings, in walks Richard (Andrew Hurteau).) a kindly, attentive man identifying himself as her husband who has put together a "memory book" to help reconstruct the past. Then there is Kenny (Sam Leichter) a pot‑smoking teenage son. When they leave the stage, in enters (from under her bed) a lisping limping man ( Tim True) with a deformed right ear and blind right eye who is there to rescue her. Rescue her from what or whom? You will have to wait until Act 2 to learn all the secrets.

The limping lisping man has a not to bright cohort named Millet (Lance Gardner) with a sock puppet on his hand who comes along to aid and abet the lisping limping man. They spirit away Claire going to the home of Claire's mother Gertie (Joan Mankin) who has had a stroke and speaks in gibberish and funny mirrors comes out as "fuddy meers." I guess that makes sense. It really doesn't but it does allow the plot to thicken and it really, really does. Finally, add to the mix a uniformed female traffic cop with a gun and the characters are all in place for a wild ride.

There is a unwritten truism in the theatre that if a gun or a knife appears in the first act it will be used in the second. So it is with the preposterous, unpredictable and zany characters in Fuddy Meers who engage in some serious jostling that could use better direction and more fluid staging. David Lindsay-Abaire's work is "cleverly odd" and Ryan Rilette does not let his characters forget that. They do not play their parts "straight" with a good deal of mugging and most of the time with good timing. Molly Stickney’s portrayal of total innocence rings true even when she uses a bit of serious profanity. Andrew Hurteau’s interpretation of a goody-goody two shoes with a hidden past is displayed with layers of parody. Tim True has the toughest job to convey “bad guy gone good with a streak of bad remaining” but does it with a yeoman effort. Joan Mankin who has to speak in gibberish does so with almost complete unintelligibility. Director Rilette should keep tighter control of the “woman police cop” played by Dena Martinez who is often unintelligible and would benefit from line direction. Lance Gardner is unable to make a distinction of the puppet voice in contrast to his own voice. His hand held puppet, who only speaks truth but with a profanity streak should generate much of the humor in the play. He does not.

Running time under two hours with intermission.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of www.theatreworldinternetmagazine.com