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CLAIRE’S BIG ADVENTURE - Brooklyn Paper

CLAIRE’S BIG ADVENTURE

Drive me crazy: Michelle Goltzman (Heidi), Dave Rosenberg (Kenny) and David Keller (Richard) in a scene from the Gallery Players' production of "Fuddy Meers."

Claire wakes up every morning with no memory.
Her son, Kenny, is dyslexic. And her mother, Gertie, has suffered
a stroke, which makes her speech impossible to decipher.



"We’re quite a family, it seems," she tells the limping,
lisping man with the deformed ear who claims to be her brother.



With its hovering mysteries and hell-bent antics, "Fuddy
Meers," David Lindsay-Abaire’s dark comedy, now on stage
at the Gallery Players, at times seems to be exactly what might
have happened if Alfred Hitchcock had teamed up with the Three
Stooges.



But "Fuddy Meers" is much more than psychological suspense
and slapstick humor. It’s also a multidimensional look at reality
and how humans twist it. In "Fuddy Meers," the characters
are either hiding the truth or too afflicted or afraid to communicate
it. Like the fuddy meers – "funny mirrors" in stroke
talk – of the title, they reflect the world in strange and distorted
ways.



"Fuddy Meers" opened at the Manhattan Theatre Club
on Oct. 12, 1999 and was transferred to the Minetta Lane Theatre
on Jan. 27, 2000. Its successful run quickly launched the career
of playwright Lindsay-Abaire.



The play is about a very special day in Claire’s life. While
her husband, Richard, is taking a shower and she is looking at
the combination scrapbook and instruction manual he hands her
every morning, a stranger pops out from under her bed, claiming
he is her brother come to rescue her from her abusive husband
and bring her back to her mother’s house.



When Richard discovers that Claire is missing, he jumps into
the car with his rebellious, pot-smoking son, Kenny, and they
drive away in hot pursuit. Richard shares a joint and a few memories
of his shady past with his son in a hilarious send-up of the
drug-induced state of mind. But after a while, they are stopped
by a woman in a highway patrol uniform named Heidi, who informs
them that they have been cruising along at 84 miles an hour.



Meanwhile, Claire and her abductor arrive at Gertie’s house,
where Claire tries to make sense of her mother’s gibberish and
the contradictory statements of Millet, a dim-witted, possibly
psychotic escaped convict whose alter ego is a foul-mouthed hand
puppet he’s constantly begging to keep quiet.



The Gallery Players’ production is directed by Ted Thompson,
a regular at the Heights players, where he has directed "The
Last Night of Ballyhoo," "Side Man" and "The
Sum of Us." Thompson really comes into his own with "Fuddy
Meers."



This may be because the Gallery is an Equity Showcase, which
gave him access to some top talent: Tasos Papas as the Limping
Man, Dolores Kenan as Gertie and Michelle Goltzman as Heidi.
But Thompson also gets excellent performances out of his non-Equity
actors: David Keller, who plays opposite Deborah Pautler as Claire,
Dave Rosenberg as Kenny and Victor Barranca as Millet.



If this is what Thompson can create under the right conditions,
the reviewer would like to see more of him at the Gallery Players.



What’s more, Thompson has wisely brought over Bill Wood (lifetime
member, resident director and set designer for the Heights Players)
to create the "Fuddy Meers" set – an ingeniously designed
multiunit, multilevel affair that allows the action to flow as
smoothly as cinematography.



Lindsay-Abaire has said that "Fuddy Meers" was inspired
by a television news report on a book about neurological disorders.



"The author talked about this kind of amnesia where, when
you go to sleep, you forget everything you’ve remembered during
the day, and when you wake up you’re a blank slate," Lindsay-Abaire
said on the Carpenter Square Theatre Web site. "I thought
of the first scene and then the very last one. Otherwise, ’Fuddy’
unfolded itself to me as it unfolds to Claire – as a series of
surprises."



The Gallery Players have lost none of the spontaneity and zaniness
inherent in the script. From the opening scene to the somewhat
ambiguous conclusion, their madcap zeal makes one eager to suspend
disbelief and join in the fun.



For the audience too, "Fuddy Meers" unfolds as a surprise
– and a very delightful one, indeed.



The Gallery Players production of "Fuddy
Meers" plays through Dec. 22, Thursdays through Saturdays
at 8 pm, and Sundays at 2 pm, at 199 14th St. at Fourth Avenue
in Park Slope. Tickets are $15, students and seniors $12. For
reservations, call (718) 595-0547.


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