Like nearly any contemporary work, “Fuddy Meers” (stroke-talk for “funny mirrors”) aims to distort and surprise. Succeeding, then, it distorts the perception of its flaws by intermittently entertaining and surprises us by revealing that the combination of undoubtedly talented thespians and relatively decent material can leave such a lackluster impression.
“Fuddy Meers,” written by David Lindsay-Abaire and directed by Joshua Brody ’07, wants to be a fun-house image of a play — something that in its corruption of reality reveals the truth. But just like staring into a wacky mirror, the fun lasts for about ten seconds, after which the novelty of the idea wears off and you’re left hoping there wasn’t an ounce of truth in the distorted reflection you just saw.
The following story sounds more interesting than it turns out to be. Claire (Sarah Minkus ’08) has a rare form of amnesia that erases her memory every time she sleeps. On one special morning, she wakes up full of questions to meet, as if for the first time, her husband (Michael Rucker ’07) who proceeds to inform her of her condition.
Moments later, Claire is naively lead away by a lisping, limping, scar-faced man claiming to be her brother (Nick Barton ’08). Sounding like a cross between Daffy Duck and, well, Nick Barton, this “brother” (billed as “Limping Man”) drags Claire to her mother’s house, where the mystery surrounding the cause of Claire’s disorder is slowly, painfully revealed.
Every character in “Fuddy Meers” is in some way twisted. The stroke-victim mother (Jennifer Cohen ’09) speaks in either mostly unintelligible gibberish or in a dislexic English unintentionally saying things like “in come” in place of “come in.” Claire’s son Kenny (David Their ’09) actually is dyslexic, though he appears to be your average teenaged pot-head. The rest of the cast basically suffers from unspecified psychological abnormalities, apparently the kinds that result in illegal behaviors like theft and kidnapping.
The shining star of “Fuddy Meers,” or rather the only actor who meets an interesting role with a solid performance, is Andy Wagner ’09. His innocent, sock-puppeteer Millet could be a one-man show, since he knows how to be both funny and a bit insane without resorting to oversimplified, juvenile idiocy. Wagner comes to represent everything that “Fuddy Meers” as a whole should’ve been but isn’t. The repartee between Millet and Hinky Binky (sock-puppet) emerges as the best-performed dialogue in the play, all done by Wagner.
Perhaps the problem with the rest of “Fuddy Meers” — why it’s not as funny or endearing as it could be — is its lack of appropriate pace. It appears that the actors (except Wagner) either do not know their lines well enough to time them just right, or have been told, for some reason, to slow things down to an almost excruciating rate. When Claire starts to recall a childhood memory about a dog, she moves so unbelievably slowly through it that one has the inclination to scream, “Out with it!”
As far as production goes, nothing is too spectacular. Sound designer John Peretti gets things mostly right — barking dogs sound like barking dogs, while teasing clips from Alabama and Kelly Clarkson wake things up a bit. There’s a gunshot that doesn’t fire quite loud enough, but what could be more appropriate in a play that just doesn’t succeed at making a strong impression?
Set designer Alexander Sassaroli ’08 reinforces the image of a fun-house with a main set pieces built out of sloping lines and twisted angles. Clownish orange paint adorns the walls of the kitchen, and a single light bulb dangles from the ceiling of the basement.
Nothing remarkable comes from the makeup department either. Limping Man’s deformed ear unfortunately looks like some sort of alien appendage, like he just came from a Star Trek convention.
Fittingly, after a night’s sleep, it’s not exactly easy to remember many more details about “Fuddy Meers.” Maybe paying close enough attention is not possible when the desire to do so waxes and wanes without regularity. Or perhaps, in the midst of the murk, there is at least one expressly truthful line in the play: “Some things are better off forgotten.”