Fuddy Meers is just the right sort of show to help Parliament House's Footlight Theater, best known for drag shows and gay-themed entertainment, branch out into full-length, more-mainstream fare.
full of wacky characters seen through the disoriented eyes of an amnesiac, Fuddy Meers is the kind of silly entertainment that nicely accompanies a drink or two on a casual night out.
And this polished production, directed by Michael Wanzie, lands laugh after laugh while keeping up a brisk pace (all the better so you don't have time to think about how far-fetched some of playwright David Lindsay-Abaire's scenarios are).
Claire (Lori McCaskill) wakes up each morning with no memory of anything that's happened before. Her flighty husband (Kevin Bee) and surly son (
) provide her some information, but are they telling her the truth? Before long, she is abducted by a limping, lisping man (Boomer Pieta) who says he's her brother. An escaped convict (Tony Dietterick) who thinks his hand puppet is real, a tough gal in a suspiciously ill-fitting cop's uniform (Monique Byrnes) and Claire's mom (Peg O'Keef), who has had
, add to the mayhem.
There may be something deeper here about trust and relationships but with Wanzie's light touch, it's all played like a sitcom -- even the theme to
's old Mama's Family TV show is used to introduce Claire's family home.
O'Keef has a field day as stroke-impaired Gertie, bellowing her mangled words onstage and off. Bee comically works himself up into a lather, Dietterick happily mugs with his puppet friend, and Paul goes from obnoxious to lovable without missing a beat. Byrnes has a mighty swagger, and Pieta mines the humor in his various disabilities (though you might feel a little uncomfortable laughing).
At the center of the story, McCaskill is admirably plucky -- though it's hard to believe anyone would be that sanguine about waking up with no memory. And with everyone playing so broadly around her, it wouldn't hurt to see even more joy and wonderment on her face as her memories start returning.
The sets, credited to D2 Productions/Doug White, are basic but work well, especially Gertie's out-of-date home with wall-mounted telephone and vinyl kitchen chairs. More important, they can be shifted on and off stage quickly, not sapping the story's momentum, and showing it is possible to accommodate more fully staged shows at the Footlight.
There are bound to be some growing pains as the Footlight Theater tries more mainstream fare. (Plans are to stage Broadway's [title of show] in October.) Should a cocktail waitress still be serving drinks during the show? Could seats and tables, which are arranged as at the Enzian movie theater, be spaced or staggered differently to allow better viewing?
But Fuddy Meers shows that branching out has merit, and a full-length production can be handled at Parliament House with wit and style. See for yourself
* What: Fuddy Meers, a Wanzie Presents production of the comedy by David Lindsay-Abaire
* When: 7 p.m. Saturdays, Aug. 14 & Aug. 21; 8 p.m. Monday, Aug. 23
* Where: Footlight Theater, Parliament House, 410 N.
* Cost: $12 in advance; $14 at the door