Theatre Cedar Rapids — runs through June 17; tickets $19-24
What’s your story? Who do you allow to write the chapters of your life? Every day is, quite literally, a blank page for amnesiac Claire (Kristen Wilcox) whose husband, Richard (Duane Larson), patiently re-constructs her life for her every morning. David Lindsay-Abaire’s Fuddy Meers, directed by Jason Alberty with assistance from Cherryl Moon Thomason, offers up laughter, relationships, and memories throughout its well-paced two acts. One could be tempted to say that the show starts out slowly, but that is because the rest of the play runs full throttle through intertwined storylines, handled deftly, if not always clearly, by the talented company.
Until a cast of misfits comes into her life, Claire’s days and acquaintances are outlined in a binder that Richard has carefully curated. The misadventure is set in motion by Jake Stigers as Limping Man, who makes his entrance in a pile of laundry. Stigers carefully and successfully balances a range of emotions, a limp and a lisp throughout his performance. Kristen Wilcox brings Claire’s sunny, innocent disposition to life and is a tonic to the sinister underpinnings of this comedy.
If that’s a weird sentence to read, wait until you begin to piece together the stories presented by the characters before you. There is stroke-impaired Gertie, played by Dawn Stephens, whose lines sound like something Lewis Carroll might write. Her presence on stage offers the audience a heart-of-gold character laced with continual comedy. Traci Rezabek creates a commanding, if not slightly bizarre, presence as Heidi, the lunch-lady-turned-cop who adeptly stitches up knife wounds. (Yes, another weird sentence!) Steve Worthington and his sidekick, Reginald Puppe, offer a humorous yet thoughtfully portrayed glimpse at a troubled man and his foul-mouthed puppet.
The technical aspects of working in the Grandon Studio are always interesting to note. The use of lighting particular to each scene, as well as a thoughtful and humorous use of a projected window were all particularly effective, thanks to lighting designer Amanda L. Mayfield. Sound cues were spot on; the music selections during transitions added a meaningful and often funny element (Ben Cyr). Costuming (by recent Jefferson graduate Bre Kennedy) reflected the characters’ personalities, and Daniel Kelchen cleverly designed a minimalist set that serves every purpose — a bed that becomes a refrigerator, for example.
At the end of a wild day that begins with an abduction of sorts, and includes fear of bacon and hacksawed manacles, the full backstories are put together by stoner son Kenny and Richard. Duane Larson plays husband Richard as a man attempting to be a steadying force amid chaos. Kenny is outstandingly played by Max Locher. Jokes about being high aside, at the end of the day, Locher’s character not only fills in the gaps in his mother’s story, but he also plays out a touching scene as the family returns home.
Fuddy Meers offers a comedy that looks at how individual stories weave together. In the end, Fuddy Meers will make you laugh; it might confuse you; and, in the end, you may smile, sigh and perhaps even ask yourself: Do I see my stories clearly or are they distorted as if in a funhouse mirror?