The absurdist comedy Fuddy Meers tackles questions of identity with biting humor.
Thursday, August 1, 2002
Photo: Memory Lapse-Fuddy Meers explores memory''s mysteries.
Fuddy Meers, a play by David Lindsey-Abaire currently playing at the Carl Cherry Center for the Arts under the auspices of Unicorn Theatre, is a comedy of the absurdist school. And while it is not as dark as Becket or Brecht it is, in Carey Crockett''s fast-paced production, darkly twisted and funny all the same.
Our heroine, Claire (Karen Strutynski), has an unusual form of amnesia that wipes her memory clean each time she falls asleep at night. Every morning she must be reminded whose wife, mother, sister and daughter she is. Ironically, in order for her to move forward in her life she must regain her scattered memories-her past. In other words, her story must unravel itself backwards before it can unfold forward. Does that make sense?
Doesn''t matter, it''s not supposed to-at least not at first. Claire''s absurd situation is reflected in every aspect of this amusing comedy. Claire has to rely on each character''s veracity, which leaves her vulnerable, indeed. Who is telling her the truth about her past? Is anybody who they say they are?
Ultimately, only time will tell. But don''t try to keep track of time by Gertie''s (Karen Shaumberg) kitchen clock-it''s running backwards.
The play''s title, Fuddy Meers, is a strangled pronunciation of the words "funny mirrors" as uttered by Claire''s mother, Gertie, a stroke victim. You know, the kind of mirrors in a carnival Fun House, where one''s reflection is warped and stretched out of all proportion to reality, a place where we encounter a kind of fractured truth. And, much like Alice Through the Looking Glass, this play functions as a mirror in which nothing, and I mean nothing, is what it seems. The script itself is interesting and funny and is composed of a series of short scenes that set up the jokes and/or points quickly, thereby holding the audience''s attention as we try to piece together exactly what Claire''s fate will be.
The opening night performance was somewhat rocky-a few bobbled lines, some awkward transitions, laughs that didn''t quite come off, and the stage fights were awkward-but overall the pacing was brisk and the performances even.
Carey Crockett''s sets ranged from minimalist-Claire''s bedroom, which reflects her blank memory-to absurdly Disneyesque, in Gertie''s kitschy kitchen. The mood music brought me right back to the 1970s. The lyrics "stuck in the middle with you" and "clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right" were especially apropos.
Lighting was a bit sketchy, with dead spots inhibiting visuals at times. It was also somewhat distracting that sets from previous scenes were inadequately masked for the "car" scenes. Details, yes, but worth paying attention to in any art form.
Some of the standout performances came from the smaller roles. Hyson Epstein as Millet was funny and poignant. He is a nimble actor and it will be interesting to see more of his work. Tim Snyder as Kenny captured that surly, yet sensitive, teen attitude we all know and love. Karen Shaumberg''s task in playing Gertie was difficult; as a stroke victim she was forced to communicate in garbled salad talk with a Jamaican accent, but she pulled it off nicely. Karen Strutynski''s Claire was open and guileless, if a bit of a one-note performance. Carey Crockett was droll as Richard, Claire''s hapless husband, and Robert Colter gave a sympathetic twist to the menacing Limping Man.