Montgomery Playhouse Fuddy MeersBy Michael Clark • Aug 14th, 2012 • Category: Reviews
Gaithersburg Arts Barn, Gaithersburg, MD
Through August 26th
1:45 with one intermission
$16/$14 Gaithersburg residents
Reviewed August 11th, 2012
David Lindsay-Abaire’s 1999 comedy Fuddy Meers opened last Friday night at the Gaithersburg Arts Barn, produced by the Montgomery Playhouse. A woman wakes each morning with no memory of her past. Should she trust her seemingly loving family, or the bizarre kidnapper who claims to be her brother? As the number of people involved in her life increases, so do the odd coincidences and confusing (and contradictory) stories.
This is one of those shows where knowing too much about the characters would be a problem to actually enjoying the production unfold. That said, there are a few outstanding performances to watch: Michael Abendshein as Millet, who is able to make us feel his sorrow at the near-death experience of his friend; Dino Coppa as Limping Man, whose accent and hearing problems never wavered despite the craziness around him on stage; and Anne Vandercook as Gertie, whose lines as Grandmother Gertie make no sense at all, yet are delivered very plausibly. Gertie has had a stroke so she now suffers from aphasia, a language impairment that makes her speech sometimes sound like pig latin, gibberish, or “almost English.” One of the largest laughs of the evening (and one of the few out-loud laughs from the first act) came upon Gertie’s swearing at another character.
The show opens with Claire (Harlie Sponaugle) waking up and discovering she knows nothing about herself. Her husband Richard (Brian Butters) and daughter Connie (former SBR reviewer Sara McMullin) are, shall we say, a bit dysfunctional. McMullin successfully channeled her innner rebellious teenager, while Butters seemed to flounder between the extremes of caregiver and disciplinarian, ultimately making really odd choices while driving in his car with the magic bench seat that expands to fit four people (was there no back seat?). We also meet police officer Heidi (Carley Thomas) who is certainly the last person you’d ever want to be protecting you from the bad guys.
Sponaugle was tasked with a very interesting character to play. What was her backstory? There wasn’t one she could build from! She could only use what she learned as the play continued. And then sometimes what she learned was contradicted by the next scene. Her bewilderment was effective, and the sounds (chiefly carnival music, dogs barking) she heard helped make Claire a gripping puzzle to watch unravel.
The show lost a bit of steam at each of its numerous scene changes. Part of that lost steam was simply momentum being halted by the scene shift itself, and part of that was the scene changes were done under fairly bright reduced stage lighting. The scene changes were done quickly, but we couldn’t help but watch them happen. Would playing some appropriate theme music (carnival tunes? humorous voiceovers? radio news? the Benny Hill theme?) in a dimmer light have helped keep the audience distracted by the scene change process?
Director Ed Starr wasn’t successful at developing the emotions in the final scene. As the different storylines were being resolved, it was difficult to feel much relief as the relationships were finally being accurately defined. Despite being clearly stated, a connection wasn’t ever really made between the characters. It felt forced.
The production’s pace also felt sluggish throughout. Most actors appeared to be waiting for lines, for the most part they weren’t in the moment. There was one well-received chase scene full of nuttiness yet was believable, but that enjoyable scene was the production’s exception rather than the rule. The playbill warns there will be “a sudden loud gun shot” at some point. When the gun shot happened, it was about three seconds into a blackout after the actors had all stopped moving.
Be aware that the show contains graphic adult language and situations. In general, Montgomery Playhouse’s Fuddy Meers was a passable presentation of David Lindsay-Abaire’s comedy.
The Director’s Note
Fuddy Meers is willfully silly and grotesque as it pieces together its jigsaw puzzle of a plot with a full menagerie of bizarre characters; but by its end it acquires a surprisingly touching depth.
This “comedy” is a story of a family and a few friends. Each person in the story is “broken,” either physically or psychologically, and they define themselves by what they want and what they will do to get it. They are all worthy of your attention; they are, after all, just like us.
Our play is the story of Claire, an amnesiac who wakes each morning with no memory. She is abducted by a limping, lisping man who claims her husband wants to kill her. We participate in a chaotic journey as Claire attempts to recover her memories.
David Lindsay-Abaire, the playwright, has said “It’s basically a whodunit… Claire is a detective following the clues to putting her life together. By the end she knows who did what to whom.” The play’s brilliance has us watching all the “balls in the air” as the playwright unveils a parade of surprises as he drives his plot forward towards its conclusion.
David Lindsay-Abaire has written a funny quirky play for us and our company has worked hard creating an engaging and entertaining evening of theater for you. We all hope you enjoy Fuddy Meers as much as we have creating it for you.
- Claire: Harlie Sponaugle
- Richard: Brian Butters
- Connie: Sara McMullin
- Limping Man: Dino Coppa
- Gertie: Anne Vandercook
- Millet: Michael Abendshein
- Heidi: Carley Thomas
The Production Team
- Producers: David Jones & Debbie Shelley
- Director: Ed Starr
- Assistant Director: Stan Rosen
- Stage Manager: Debbie Shelley
- Set Designer: David Jones
- Lighting Designer: Paul Shoop
- Sound Designer: Patrick Hughes
- Costumer: Mary Wakefield
- Master Carpenter: David Jones
- Sound Operator: Patrick Hughes
- Lighting Operator: Mark Shullenbarger
- Stage Crew: David Jones, Sein Lewis, Lisa Spangler
- Photographer: David Jones
- Production Logo: Jennifer Georgia
- Load-in Crew: David Jones, Debbie Shelley, Hunter Shelley, Steve Deming
Disclaimer: Montgomery Playhouse provided one complimentary media ticket to ShowBizRadio for this review. MP also purchased advertising on the ShowBizRadio.net web site, which did not influence this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/8422.