Encore Michigan

‘Fuddy Meers’ at Monster Box is a farce of nature

Review June 03, 2017 David Kiley

WATERFORD TWP.–In Fuddy Meers, the David Lindsay –Abaire play now playing at The Monster Box Theatre, there is an amnesiac woman who starts each day anew with no memory, a lisping-speech man who goes berserk at the sight of bacon, a potty-mouthed puppet and a stroke victim whose words are pretty difficult to understand.

The playwright called it pretty well when, in an 2000 interview, he said he was trying to “write outrageous farce with an underlying sadness, a real weight that peeks through silliness.”

And things get pretty silly. Claire (Sarah Burcon) wakes each morning with no memory, compelling her husband Richard (Andrew Eisengruber) to try to jog remnants of her memory into place. This daily ritual, though, gets, interrupted by someone we only come to know as Limping Man (Patrick O’Lear) who is the character who pitches a fit over the sight or mention of bacon for reasons we won’t know until the end of the play.

Limping Man has no name for good reason, which becomes evident as the play goes on. But I was never quite clear why the grandmother Gerty (Betty DeWulf) is given a stroke in the story to make so many of her words unintelligible. It’s a bit distracting. She does, however, give the play it’s name when she can’t say “funhouse mirror” and it comes out “Fuddy Meers.”

Directed by Kenneth Franzel, the play is ultimately about loss, trust, second chances and emotional healing even if the physical kind can’t be achieved.

With the plot being about a woman who starts each day with no memory, one has to think that the Drew Barrymore film “Fifty First Dates,” was in part inspired by Lindsay-Abaire’s play, though the film’s romantic comedy story-line bears no resemblance to this play.

Burcon handles her Claire character quite well. She has the chore of being off-balance and unsure throughout the play, and she manages the task in pajamas the whole time without getting monotonous. O’Lear as Limping Man also has a tough task of being anguished, duplicitous and manic all at once. Adam Kabot plays Millett, a sweet-hearted former janitor whose alter ego hand-puppet handles communicating his angst through four letter words. Eisengruber’s Richard toggles between super sweet, patient, adoring husband and a more dark and controlling spouse. Joseph Feldman plays Kenny, Claire and Richard’s son, who mostly gives us a lot of teenager angst.

This is broad comedy. And it is an early work of Lindsay-Abaire who went on to win a Pulitzer for his play, Rabbit Hole, as well as numerous accolades for his play Good People, which just had a run at Open Book Theatre in Trenton.

Farce is a tricky business. Most of the time the company gets it right. The larger question is whether Lindsay –Abaire chose the right approach to convey his themes. At times, the script feels like to has too much stuff coming at us–especially when Gerty is stroke-talking with a mouthful of marbles.

But in a way, I think the playwright is using Gerty to make us slow down and listen carefully to what is being said, and ultimately what is being felt in the story. In any case, Fuddy Meers is diverting and thought provoking even if it is not one of Lindsay-Abaire’s most coherent scripts.

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