July 31, 2008 performance reviewed by Frances Benn Hall
“… one of the most hilarious, zany, and rapid paced farces to ever grace the Williamstown Theatre Festival stage.”
Turn David Ives loose on translating Georges Feydeau’s A Flea in Her Ear and you have one of the most hilarious, zany, and rapid paced farces to ever grace the Williamstown Theatre Festival stage. Evidently each actor auditioning for director John Rando must have had to prove skills in physical gymnastics, vocal pyrotechnics, and the ability to remove clothes with agility.
The play opens in the elegant blue and white drawing room of Victor Chamdebise (Mark Harelik) whose wife Raymonde (Kathryn Meisle), suspecting her husband of infidelity, is aided by her friend Lucienne (Mia Barron) in concocting an anonymous letter that will lure him into an assignation to expose him.
In the wrong hands, indeed several hands, this letter will result in the entire large cast suddenly being whirled out of the blue drawing room for appearances at The Frisky Puss Hotel, where Act 2 takes place in a maze of numbered doorways, stairways that slant upwards and downwards, and even a huge revolving bed that changes one room into another at the touch of button. All amid pink, purple, flowered décor that screams “naughty.”
The flamboyant cast includes in its misunderstandings, frantic chases, and jealousies:
- Lucienne’s husband Don Carlos Homenides de Histangua, given to frequent tirades in Spanish and flourishing a pistol that when fired brings down bits of ceilings;
- Victor’s friend Roman Tournel (Tom Hewitt) a womanizer of talent, with eyes for his friend’s wife;
- Victors’s nephew, Camille Chandebise (Carson Elrod) whose same last name adds to confusions while his speech defect, when not corrected by a bite bar supplied by Dr. Finache, (Brooks Ashmanskas), often makes anything Camille says total jibberish;
- and Victor himself, who is not always who he seems.
If this sounds incomprehensible, do not be alarmed, the whole play speeds merrily along, despite verbal confusions, lines one misses because the audience is a-roar at the antics, or it is impossible, and not necessary, to understand them. It is as though one in the audience is awash in the misunderstandings.
Act 3 gets all safely back in the blue and white drawing room, although some are lacking articles of attire, and all the muddles and confusions are finally resolved.
All the actors in this play romp their hearts out. With two intermissions it runs close to three hours but seems to whiz by gloriously in much less time. Everyone deserves high praise, including the announcer who advised us to turn off our cell phones in a French we could all understand.