by Brian Edward, ‘Burgh Vivant.
Monday mornings are bad enough. When the harsh, unsympathetic blast of the digital alarm clock pierces your ears at 5am, imagine having your life and identity explained to you by a stranger who introduces himself as your husband, just as he’s done every morning prior, because a traumatic incident has left you with a case of amnesia that erases your memory each time you fall asleep. You may sensibly opt for the snooze button, though any such thoughts of reprieve are dashed when a manic man in a mask appears, tells you that you’re in great danger, and steals you away in his vehicle to destinations yet unknown. You’re in for quite a day, to say the least, an no amount of Folgers is going to turn this one around. This is the premise that ignites the peculiar tale of David Lindsay-Abaire’s Fuddy Meers, directed by Jeff Johnston.
Beth Minda as amnesiac Claire convincingly navigates the complexities of uncovering the truth about her life among a series of colorful circumstances and even more colorful characters. To share too much about their background may spoil the unraveling mystery that Lindsay-Abaire has laid forth, though much can be said of the performances that bring us the story.
Especially prominent are the performances by Kevin Bass as Limping Man and Tom Protulipac as Millet. Each handles their part with an expert dexterity, despite the manic and outrageous personality traits required to portray them. Neither character can boast many redeeming qualities, though in in the hands of Bass and Protulipac, they are entirely authentic and compelling to watch.
Kathleen Regan takes on the monumental task of portraying Gertie, who speaks gibberish and is only barely coherent due to having suffered a stroke. It’s an absurd situation on top of all the other improbable plot elements, and could easily have come off as an absurd portrayal, though Regan gives the role an endearing spirit that translates clearly, even when the words do not. Extra points are due here for a process that I assume involved memorizing nonsense words, internalizing their meaning, and then spouting them off with 100% confidence that you’re making sense to those around you.
Joe Eberle as doting husband Richard, Jared Lewis as angsty son Kenny, and Kaitlin Cliber as the volatile Heidi round out a strong ensemble cast that keeps the play moving.
It’s a difficult piece to tackle. Aside from requiring a skillful balancing act on the fine line between psychodrama and dark comedy, Lindsay-Abaire’s script calls for frequent scene changes, often with little or no “cliffhanger” element to drive the play’s energy through the pause. The running crew handle the transitions as efficiently as possible, made all the more manageable by the dynamic set design by Matt Mylnarski and Evan Hauth.
You’ll be entertained, you’ll be disturbed, and for a night out in Trafford, it’s most definitely worth the admission price.
Fuddy Meers performs at The Theatre Factory, 235 Cavitt Ave, Trafford, PA 15085 through March 3rd, 2019. For tickets and more information, visit www.thetheatrefactory.org