The City Theatre is presenting the Off Broadway hit Fuddy Meers, by David Lindsay-Abaire. This fantastical comedy presents a cast of very offbeat characters who try to "help" Claire rebuild the memory of her life, lost because she suffers from an unusual form of amnesia in which she wakes up each morning with no memory of who she is or what her life is about.
Helena Ruoti plays Claire as a cheerful amnesiac, willing to believe everything she is told. Since Claire doesn't really know who she is, and it takes the whole play for us to find out, this a tough character to put over. Ruoti's work consists mostly of smiling and following along with each character's tale, reacting (and re-reacting) to the "facts" they reveal to her.
Some of people in her life would rather hide than reveal the facts of who they are and what parts they play in Claire's life, so each revelation has a less than 100% chance of being disproved later in the play. This tenuousness plus the eccentric nature of the characters is the crux of the comedy in Fuddy Meers. In this production, it works only part of the time.
Claire's husband Richard (Michael Fuller) and son Kenny (Brian Vincent) show signs of wear since they obviously go through a memory-enhancement routine with Claire every morning.
The remaining characters are truly bizarre and it's most often their behavior quirks that bring the biggest laughs in the show. Claire's mother Gertie (played wonderfully by Beth Dixon) is recovering from a stroke and cannot make a sentence with two correct words in the right order (she is the source of the play's malapropian title). Her language patterns produce humorous gibberish that is often misinterpreted by the other characters.
Doug Rees plays Limping Man, a mysterious man with a manacle on his wrist and a severely injured ear. Millet (Martin Giles), also handcuffed, prefers to converse with (and through) his hand puppet, Hinky Binky. Miki Johnson's Heidi, a policewoman, adds yet another twist when she arrives on the scene. At times bedlam, at other times more focused, the action in Fuddy Meers is reminiscent of Christopher Durang's Betty's Summer Vacation, but without the bite and edge.
Fuddy Meers plays at City Theatre through March 24. For more information To call the box office at (412)431-CITY or visit www.citytheatrecompany.org.
Photo: J.C. Schisler