There's comedy in Claire's amnesia. But the bulk of the comedy in Fuddy Meers comes from the bizarre set of characters who surround Claire and try to pull her in different directions. There is a strange man with a limp, a lisp, and a facial deformity; a kindly grandmother whose speech is garbled due to having suffered a stroke; an angry young teenager who smokes pot and mouths off; a lady cop who seems a little too eager to commit some acts of police brutality; and a shy escaped convict whose nervousness is balanced out by an aggressive hand-puppet with a penchant for bad language.
A lot of the humor in the play comes simply from unlikely people (the teenager, the grandmother, the hand-puppet) using bad language. It is very likely that not all of it will strike any single audience member as funny. Just like comedy arising out of someone's physical pain (which Fuddy Meers has as well), comedy based on people swearing sometimes just hits you wrong.
But a lot of it hits you right, and this is largely due to the talents of director David Rose. Lines like, "Don't patronize me, Douche Bag," don't exactly sing on the page, but they get big laughs when put into the mouths of this talented ensemble. Executing farce is hard; and this production pulls it off with ease, beginning with a variant on traditional door-slamming and gradually escalating the pace to build to an absolutely ridiculous first act closer.
The entire cast gets laughs, but two performances are particularly worthy of mention. A highlight of the first act comes when Claire's husband tries to talk his way out of a speeding ticket before the police officer catches the smell of marijuana in the car. Be sure to watch Michael Reisz as the teenager with a half-smoked joint in his pocket - his barely suppressed pot-induced giggles at his father's increasingly ridiculous explanations are hilarious. The second act is very nearly stolen by Nick DeGruccio and his hand puppet. Although the first act sets up the split personality between DeGruccio's nervously unstable convict and his aggressive hand puppet, the second act takes things further when his character actually interacts with his own puppet.
The second act is not as funny as the first. Rather than end the show on a comic high, Lindsay-Abaire has chosen to go for a more serious, if not downright touching, ending. The company executes it well enough - when we're supposed to take a moment and think about how really awful it must be for someone suffering from amnesia and the people who must cope with it, we do feel for them. The problem is that we'd rather not. Having spent two hours laughing at these characters, it is a bit of a downer to actually have to take them seriously. Go see Fuddy Meers at the Colony, and prepare to laugh; just don't expect the whole play to end on the same sort of silly high as the first act.
Fuddy Meers runs at the Colony Theatre in Burbank through March 9, 2003. For tickets and information, call (818) 558-7000, or click www.colonytheatre.org.
The Colony Theatre Company, Barbara Beckley Producing Director, presents the Los Angeles premiere of Fuddy Meers by David Lindsay-Abaire. Scenic Design by Robert L. Smith; Lighting Design by Lisa D. Katz; Sound Design by Drew Dalzell; Costume Design by A. Jeffrey Schoenberg; Properties Design by MacAndMe; Marketing/Public Relations by David Elzer/Demand PR; Make-up Design by Bradley M. Look; Makeup Artist Stan Nowak; Fight Choreography by Charles Currier; Production Stage Manager Kim Crabtree; Assistant Director Anjali Bal. Directed by David Rose.