“Fuddy Meers” is the name of a very funny, very quirky dark comedy now playing at the Barn Theatre in Montville. With the 85th season lineup including such Broadway Tony winning or nominated productions as “Noises Off,” “God of Carnage” and “Chorus Line” The Barn and director Todd Mills selected for their mid-season play the lesser known, but still very entertaining, “Fuddy Meers” by David Lindsay-Abaire. It was Lindsay-Abaire’s first play and debuted off-Broadway in 1999.
One reviewer proclaimed Lindsay-Abaire a “comic genius.” He also earned several awards during the initial run, including Most Promising Dramatist in 1999. Since then Lindsay-Abaire received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2007 for his play Rabbit Hole, which also earned several Tony Award nominations. He wrote the book and lyrics for the new musical Shrek the Musical which opened on Broadway in 2009 and several films including “Rabbit Hole” with Nicole Kidman.
As his first play “Fuddy Meers” may not have the polish of his later plays, but nonetheless it is a unique, outrageous, highly entertaining play populated by seven unforgettable characters. Here is the difficult or awkward part for a reviewer…the plays success is built on a barrage of plot twists and surprises that naturally we are not about to reveal.
The play centers on a married woman, Claire, who lives in a suburban home with her husband Richard and 17 year old son Kenny. The husband operates the MRI at the local hospital were he met Claire, a school nurse. Sounds very normal…except several years ago Claire was in an accident (or was she?) that left her with a rare form of amnesia that erases her memory whenever she falls asleep. Each morning she is reintroduced to her husband, son and the rest of her world…. including her own name. The husband’s clever method of restoring at least some of her memory is to review with her a scrapbook he assembled including photographs of family members and others all properly labeled.
The play covers one day and begins in the morning in the master bedroom with Claire awaking to find a strange man lurking in her room…..husband Richard or is he? Before her day is over she is kidnapped or is she? Her husband plans to kill her or does he? She is involved with thieves, a cop, her stroke-afflicted mother and a “potty” mouthed puppet. Any further plot or character description will lead us into “spoiler” territory.
Ok, the plot is bizarre and often defies logic, but it is fun and it has a very able cast led by Jill Bormann (Chester Theater Group regulars will remember Jill from “Mauritius”) she’s wonderful as Claire…a role that requires spending the entire play dressed in pajamas! Nicely playing Richard, her slightly nerdy husband (or is he?), is Fred Halperin. Caroline Crafton is Heidi, a specially attractive cop.
Particularly well cast, i.e absolutely perfect in their roles, are Jean Habrukowich as Gertie, Claire’s mother, a cerebral hemorrhage victim who speaks in “stroke talk.” She’s simply marvelous. Anthony Duke Claus as Kenny, Claire’s son, Joe Guadara as not so bright Millet and Michael Reddin as The Limping Man are each outstanding. Oh, so is the real charmer of the cast Hinky-Binky played to perfection by Handrew Soxx with an assist from Joe Guadara.
As with most of the productions we’ve seen at The Barn Theatre these performances are at or near professional level. Director Todd Mills, of the Mills family of directors, has produced another winner for this distinguished community theatre. Todd Mills not only directed he is responsible for set, lighting and sound design. Assisting Mills are Claire MacDonald stage manager, Dave McDonald props, Brian James Grace hair and make-up, Christine Morgan costume design and Carol Offermann and Sean Byrne light and sound operation. The co-producers are Janet Lazar and John Weiss.
As to the question “What does the title “Fuddy Meers” mean? Sorry you’ll have to see the play.
Reviewed by Rick Busciglio January 20, 2013
Remaining performances will be on January 25, 26 and February 1 and 2 at 8 p.m; and January 27 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $18 (senior/student tickets are $16 on matinees only).
The Barn Theatre is located on Skyline Drive in Montville, NJ, just minutes off Exit 47 from Route 287. For more reservations, information or directions, call The Barn Theatre Box Office at (973) 334-9320, or visit The Barn on the web at www.barntheatre.org.