Tabula rasa

Biddeford's City Theater creates Fuddy Meers
By MEGAN GRUMBLING  |  June 25, 2008
GOING FOR A RIDE An entertaining abduction.

Fuddy Meers by David Lindsay-Abaire | Directed by David Ciampra | Produced by City Theater Associates, in Biddeford | through June 29 | 207.282.0849
Claire (Donna Gaspar Jarvis) takes on this tough old world one day at a time. Literally. Like the Guy Pearce character in Memento, she has a condition (“psychogenic amnesia”) that every morning turns her into a slate blanked of memories. When she first wakes on our long day with her, she doesn’t remember her husband Richard (Rich Boucher) or her belligerent stoner son Kenny (Andrea Lopez). Nor does she remember the lisping, limping, half-blind, half-deaf man with a ski-mask and a mangled ear (Mark E. Dils) who crawls out from under her bed to “rescue” her. Claire will just have to take this crazy thing called life — including her “stroke-talking” mother and a foul-mouthed hand-puppet — one revelation at a time, in Fuddy Meers, David Lindsay-Abaire’s madcap, not-for-the-prudish black comedy, directed by David Ciampa at Biddeford City Theater.

Luckily, Claire, unfettered by pesky memories, is one sanguine gal. As she encounters her stroke-victim mother, Gertie (Anne Hilton-Sawyer), the batty Millet (Jon Messana), and his hand-sewn better half Hinky Binky (as himself), she accepts and appraises each new turn of events with an enviable equanimity. Gaspar Jarvis's childlike beam and warm, curious tone create a grounding, gentle contrast to the insanity that Claire must navigate as she tries to know who and why she is.

That insanity is substantial, and many cast members make diverting contributions to it. As Kenny, Lopez does a fantastic caricature of the archetypal drug-addled problem-teenager. Her sardonic surliness is smart and positively decadent as she slumps, skulks, and goes around bellowing “Why can’t you just die?!” Messana is also a hoot, splitting time between gentle, insecure wacko Millet and the brash, id-powered creature on his hand, who says things like “Scratch my itch, bitch!” and draws out his long a’s. It’s also a treat to watch Mad Horse regular Lisa Muller-Jones in the role of Heidi, a tough but claustrophobic lady cop. As Richard, who at first seems boringly solid, but who has as many cracks as everyone else, Boucher plays a good deadpan, though I’d like to see him push Richard’s extremes a bit more.

Two actors, Dils and Hilton-Sawyer, have the extra challenge of playing verbally-challenged characters, and each meets it with remarkable (so to speak) fluency. Dils manages great consistency with his lisp through his character’s bewildering range of emotions and actions; Hilton-Sawyer makes an even less recognizable language feel natural. (An example: “Day base-freeze croquet” for “They free-base cocaine.”) My one suggestion for Dils and Hilton-Sawyer is to strive for even more clarion delivery of the deliberately muddied language: to err on the side of exaggerated projection (especially in as large a house as the beautiful City Theater), to avoid burying anything during active blocking, and to anticipate (and pause for) all those well-deserved laughs.

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Related: The circle game, Comic thunder, Life and death, More more >
  Topics: Theater , Christopher Price, Guy Pearce, David Lindsay-Abaire,  More more >
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