KPBS AIRDATE: September 7, 2001
Get out your thesaurus and look up “quirky” — there’s flaky and screwball, wacky, buggy, wigged-out… and they all apply to “Fuddy Meers,” the darkly absurd comedy which, since its 1999 New York premiere, has become one of the most widely produced plays in the country. There’s obviously a huge national hunger for bizarre humor and ever-more dysfunctional families. Now North Coast Rep has happily stepped forward to feed that need.
In David Lindsay Abaire’s warped concoction, Claire is a perfectly pleasant woman who awakes to find she has no idea who or where she is. She is patiently told by her husband that she has a rare form of psychogenic amnesia, and she starts each day a blank slate, kind of a human Etch-a-sketch. No sooner does the ingenuous Claire digest this bit of info, than she is whisked away, abducted actually, by a sinister, masked man who emerges from under her bed with a pronounced limp and lisp and some hideous scars. He says he’s protecting her, but she cannot imagine why or from whom. Soon she meets his buddy, who talks to a smartass sock puppet, and is reunited with her mother, whose stroke has reduced her speech to Pig Latin-like near gibberish. It’s the mother who gives the play its name: “Fuddy Meers” is her attempt to say ‘funhouse mirror,’ which probably reflects back to the distorted images we each have of our own lives.
The neck-snapping sequence of wacko, sicko scenes and events leaves us as giddily confused as Claire — but we gradually learn the truth along with her. Everyone is ultimately sorted out or knocked off, forgiven or forgotten, by the end.
Sean Murray’s direction is a head-spinning hoot, as is his hilarious cast — with standout performances by KB Mercer as the sweetly lovable, wide-eyed naïve, Claire; and, as her distraught mother, Sandra Ellis-Troy, who strikes a beautiful balance between nonsense and making sense; and Thomas Fonss as Claire’s thoroughly credible, fresh-talking, dope-smoking son. The set is aptly angular, cartoonish and off-kilter, though the too-slow scene changes and too-frequent blackouts slow down the speedy proceedings. But the lighting and sound design keep things flowing and maintain the nutty tone of the piece.
It may not be exceedingly deep or unforgettable, but in these times of sitcoms onstage, “Fuddy Meers” is a bracing splash of theatrical lunacy.
©2001 Patté Productions Inc.