“Fuddy Meers” – Nearly Naked Theatre

This review aired on KBAQ January 28, 2010

Nearly Naked Theatre, The Little Theatre at Phoenix Theatre
Phoenix, AZ

Where to start with David Lindsay-Abaire’s far fetched but telling “Fuddy Meers”? Let’s start with the title. It comes from the carnival fun house and the mirrors that distort reality. That’s exactly what the play is about. Claire, the central character, has a weird form of amnesia that makes her mind blank each morning when she wakes up. She remembers nothing about her life. Her husband, Richard, has prepared a book that reminds her of significant things and people.

After he leaves, Phillip arrives claiming to be her brother but is he? In our lives what is real and what is fiction?  During “Fuddy Meers” we veer every which way because almost every person Claire encounters has another identity as they hide things from her and each other. Phillip takes Claire to her mother, Gertie. Gertie’s a stroke victim so she struggles to communicate. In her gibberish, she warns Claire that Phillip is not whom he seems.

The antics and malarkey in “Fuddy Meers” is funny and the play’s contrived situation and the mysterious people Claire meets are hysterical weirdoes. Abaire reminds us to be cautious and suspicious of everyday events, to be alert for deceptions, and to keep a firm grip on reality. Other plot details will spoil the merriment and the sense of shock that the circumstances and characters bring into Claire’s confused life.

The Nearly Naked Theatre’s “Fuddy Meers’” marks its local premiere and the breezy, laugh-filled production is delightful if you can fathom and enjoy wacky absurdity. Andres Alcala’s staging is madcapped paced, the most effective way to keep the comic zingers flying and the daffy merriment delightful.

Debra K. Stevens delivers an assured comic performance as Claire. Stevens rolls with the comic upheavals in an amazingly cool and refined manner. Since Claire knows nothing, the audience must, like Claire, accept the initial reality until cracks in each person’s character and story begin to unravel the situation.

Joseph Kremer delivers comic amusement as the lisping Phillip while Ron May is a marvelous hoot as a friend who met Phillip in prison. May has a clever finger puppet, Binky, which May turns into a wonderfully droll companion whose honesty helps us figure out what’s really happening. Kerry McCue’s a slapstick dynamo as Heidi, a cop, or is she?  Watching McCue go bonkers proves frenzied joy. Jacqueline Gaston makes Gertie a bumbling idiot but she craftily makes her babbling dialogue understandable enough to help with key plot details.

“Fuddy Meers” leaves you laughing at the absurd reality of Claire’s askew life but after leaving the performance you’ll ponder about how much of your own reality is illusion. “Fuddy Meers” continues through February 13. For tickets, call the Phoenix Theater box office at 602-254-2151.

Grade B