Regional Reviews: San Francisco
A Flea in Her Ear at San Jose Repertory Theater
Also see Richard's review of Fiddler on the Roof
The playwright Georges Feydeau is considered the master of French bedroom farces. He wrote about 60 comedies in his lifetime, but A Flea ... is probably his most durable masterpiece. This 1907 romp has probably played every venue in this world of ours. I have seen some excellent productions of the play both in the U.K. and here in the U.S. I saw a wonderful production years ago that had a very young Edward Hardwicke and Anthony Hopkins in the lessor roles. This was televised by the BBC in 1967. ACT did a great production when William Ball was the artistic director and the Roundabout did a production in 1998 with Mark Linn-Baker playing the lead dual role. He was supported by Bill Irwin, Kali Rocha and Shun Powell.
Fox Films did a major film of the work in 1968, with Rex Harrison in the dual role supported by Rosemary Harris, Louis Jourdan and Rachael Roberts. Unfortunately, the film is nowhere to be seen any longer.
The play takes place in Paris at the turn of the century. Raymonde, the wife of insurance executive Victor, accidentally opens a large envelope addressed to him that contains his suspenders. They were sent by a unknown female. As a result, Raymonde gets a "flea in her ear," the French equivalent of "a bee in her bonnet." She suspects her husband is being unfaithful. Raymonde, with the help of best friend Lucienne, sends a sensual, perfumed invitation from an 'anonymous admirer' to see if he will show up for a rendezvous at the notorious Hotel Coq d'Or. Unfortunately, as always in this playwright's farces, everything goes wrong. The note ends up in the wrong hands, the plan misfires in true Feydeau fashion resulting in confused identities, revolving beds and many, many doors slamming.
John McCluggage has brought together an extra special collection of actors and designers for this boisterously entertaining holiday offering. Leading the pack is one of the Bay Area's favorite actors, Dan Hiatt, who has the challenging double role as the regal gentleman Victor and his look-alike, the wine-loving hotel servant Poche. He excels in both roles.
Elaina Erika Davis and Karole Foreman play the scheming wife and her best friend. Ms. Davis is enchanting to watch and Ms. Foreman is excellent in her role. There are many good performances, especially Los Angeles actor John Altieri as Camille. He has mastered the defective speech pattern so well that I could understand him after a few minutes of dialogue.
Michael J. Flynn is the entertaining Spanish count husband of Lucienne. His fractured English is top drawer. A great and fun performance by this distinguish actor.
Howard Swain, another popular actor, plays Dr. Finanche, and as usual his speech is flawless. John Hanson, who played the lead in Cyrano de Bergerac last season at the Rep, is an able farceur. Aaron Brace, another very popular area actor, makes his first appearance on the Rep stage as the prissy butler and is marvelous in the role. Stan Egi, Beatie Pompa, Maureen McVerry, John Robb and Colin Thompson all turn in excellent comic work.
The two ornate sets by Scott Weldin set the mood of the whole play. The bedroom set is very clever with the key revolving bed on stage left. The company could not have chosen a better holiday offering to present to their audience.
Flea in her Ear runs through January 6 at the San Jose Rep Theatre located at 101 Paseo de San Antonio. Tickets are $26 to $44. Call (408)367-7255 or visit www.sjrep.com.
Their next production will be The Mandrake Root starring Lynn Redgrave, scheduled to open on January 26.