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Maintaining the lighter-than-air souffle of farce at A Noise Within

Maintaining the lighter-than-air souffle of farce at A Noise Within
Elyse Mirto, left, E.K. Dagenfield and Jeremy Rabb in "A Flea in Her Ear" at A Noise Within. (Craig Schwartz)
Farce is a tricky thing to sustain, especially sex farce. Too much lewdness risks vulgarity, over-restraint loses the fizz.

No such issues afflict “A Flea in Her Ear” at A Noise Within. In its Southern California regional premiere, playwright David Ives’ wittily risqué 1950s update of Georges Feydeau’s farcical classic, the grand-père of them all, strikes precisely the right notes.

One could get vertigo recounting “Flea’s” plot, which concerns Raymonde, a well-heeled Parisian matron who suspects husband Victor Emmanuel of an affair. (His actual problem is why Viagra was invented, but we digress.)
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She and convent-school friend Lucienne hatch a scheme to catch her straying spouse at the Frisky Puss, a louche hotel notorious for extramarital hanky-panky. From there, you’re on your own.
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Ives’ translation is delightfully anachronistic yet honors the original, like an “I Love Lucy” episode rethought by Claude Chabrol. Director Julia Rodriguez-Elliott maintains narrative clarity — no mean feat — and a deft balance between insouciance and lunacy.
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Her designers exhibit droll panache. Fred Kinney’s set shifts from moderne spareness to Belle Époque glitz and back. Tom Ruzika’s lighting and Robert Oriol’s compositions have a ditzy charm, and Angela Calin’s New Look-meets-nutbar wardrobe is worth admission.

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So is the cast. Elyse Mirto has a stylish field day as Raymonde, while Geoff Elliott goes for dual-role broke as hapless Victor Emmanuel and Poche, his dim-bulb lookalike.

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Jill Hill devours Lucienne, uproarious against outré Luis Fernandez-Gil as her trigger-happy Spanish mate. Jonathan Bray’s suave would-be seducer and Joshua Wolf Goldman’s pragmatic doctor underplay with expertise.
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Jeremy Rabb, Alan Blumenfeld, Rafael Goldsten, Alison Elliott, Renna Nightingale, E.K. Dagenfield, Megan Lennon and the priceless Mitchell Edmonds keep this delicious souffle airborne.
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“Flea” is hardly deep, let alone PC, but, mon Dieu, is it ever a riotous romp.

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“A Flea in Her Ear,” A Noise Within, 3352 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena. Runs in repertory; see website for schedule. Ends Nov. 22. $44 and up. (626) 356-3100, Ext. 1, or www.anoisewithin.org. Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes.

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