‘Fuddy Meers’ — The Uneasy Marriage of Crazy Farce and a Serious Topic

The Loudmouth Collective - Fuddy Mears - Theater Review - Minnesota Connected - 2014

The Loudmouth Collective goes all out and full volume in Fuddy Meers, David Lindsay-Abaire’s in-your-face comedy about memory loss and family. The humor meanders from zany into full blown hysteria, with a virtual clown car of crazy characters, and several plots intersecting for one wild ride.

Meet Claire. She is an amnesiac a la 50 First Dates, who wakes up as a clean slate every morning. On this particular morning, after meeting her husband Richard (Leif Jurgenson) and her foul mouthed pot smoking seventeen year old son Kenny (Spencer Harrison), she is kidnapped by a masked man who is half blind, half deaf, walks with a limp and talks with a lisp. He claims to be her brother saving her from a murderous husband, but nothing is as it seems. Every character is this cast has a secret they’re keeping from Claire surrounding the trauma that rendered her an amnesiac. And no one is telling.

But Claire (Noe Tallen) is remarkably good humored for someone who has no idea who she is, who her friends are, and who has been kidnapped and is surrounded by people with clear psychological issues and potentially violent tendencies.

On the journey to Claire’s self discovery, we meet a lady cop (Katie Willer), Claire’s mother Gertie (the impressive Karen Weise-Thompson) who has recently suffered a stroke and now speaks in something that sounds vaguely like Pig Latin, and Millet (Paul Rutledge) one of several escaped convicts (the others are surprises), a sweet and frightened man deeply emotionally attached to Hinky Binky, a sock puppet who can’t keep his mouth shut and is constantly revealing things Millet would rather keep on the down low.

Some of the lines about Claire’s confused state are really priceless. After Hinky Binky has (against Millet’s wishes) revealed a clue about her trauma she says to her mother: “That puppet was saying the strangest things about me mama, is he a trustworthy source of information?”

The transitions, which usually get neglected in theater, are great in this show. The cast changes the set to the tune of Electroswing and show off some quirky dance moves.

The performances are strong. Noe Tallen’s rendition of Claire is affable, bubbly and basically happy to be along for the ride. Whenever something is demanded of her, she responds with a slightly manic laugh “Was I a nurse? I have no idea! HAHAHAHAHA.”

Fuddy Mears - Theater Review - Minneapolis -  The Loudmouth Collective - 2014

Spencer Harrisons’s performance as Kenny stands out as a beacon of “I don’t give a shit” apathetic dead pan in a play where way too many people are yelling a lot. The quieter interactions between him and his mother are truthful and sweet. Paul Rutledge’s performance as Millet is multifaceted and technically impressive: he switches between Millet and Hinky Binky with speed and virtuosity. Hinky Binky was entirely believable as his own character, as was the love between man and puppet.

Matt Sciple has some good moments as the violently disturbed Zach. One second he is screaming and on the verge of violence, (I’ll kill you and bury you in the backyard, or the like) he will suddenly flip a switch into deadpan, exasperatedly flippant: “Sorry, I was mad.”

The script is snappy and cute, and the actors keep up a good pace throughout the two hour show, but they’re struggling a little against a script that starts to feel like it was Lindsay-Abaires first major work — and although his knack for quick dialogue and structured plots is already clear, it’s not as snappy or as intelligent as his later works like Rabbit Hole, which won him a 2007 Pulitzer Prize.

The production sometimes sparkles and sometimes suffers from the comedic mayhem of having too many characters with too many disorders in one literal kitchen. The chaos is interrupted only by Claire’s lengthy monologues about remembering banal things from her childhood (daddy used to walk dogs, once he hit one with his car, that was sad, etc.).

The climax of the show is the end of the first act, where director Natalie Novacek does a great job of staging that moment in every farce where everyone is suddenly in the same room, all the subplots collide head on and the gun we saw earlier is fired full force.

The second act takes the show to a darker place. Plot twist: this show is actually about serious domestic abuse, but the script has neither the emotional heft nor the careful composition to support such a difficult subject. Lindsay-Abaire is working in a very specific breed of camp, one that is trying to wed extremely serious subject matter to delightfully (if you’re in the right mood) stupid farce. The opening night audience was definitely in the right mood. For me, the cast was working hard against a script that, though clever, had little room for character or heart in a sea of one liners and hysteria.

“You’re all crazy!” screams the Hinky Binky the sock puppet, as the up his butt leaves the stage for the last time. I concur with his assessment.

You’ve got one weekend left to catch Fuddy Meers at Nimbus Theater (1517 Old Central Ave, Minneapolis).

Tickets are $15, $10 with a fringe button.

Photos via: Justin D. Gallo Photography



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