If the Crighton Theatre’s hilarious current production of Georges Feydeau’s “A Flea in Her Ear” does not have a “cast of thousands,” the 14 actors in this production seemed to create that illusion as they filled the stage with riotous antics for two and a half fun filled hours. Director, Grace Thompson, recently made an apt comparison when she described the author as “…the Neil Simon of his time.”
Thompson also supervised the scenic designs that nicely capture the upper class atmosphere of the play’s setting in Paris of the early 1900’s. Reminiscent of the classic French comedies of Molière, the action revolves around jealousies, trickery, and mistaken identities. Yvonne Chandel (Cindy Siple) suspects her husband of philandering and enlists the help of her best friend, Lucienne (Jamie Higgs) in drafting a letter to test his fidelity. The comical results filled the Crighton with laughter for much of the lengthy three-act play. Miss Siple’s great voice and articulation were notable, and the bird-like garishness of her costume was another success for Crighton’s talented costume designer, Lynn Peverill. Marc Burger plays the family cousin, Camille Chandel, with great comic flair and a hilarious speech impediment. Even now, I am still laughing at the thought of Burger’s talented delivery of his lines without the use of consonants. It was an uproarious characterization, but only one of many. Miss Higgs offered another amusing portrayal in the role of Lucienne. She might remind old-timers of zany talk show regular, Charro, when she delivers lines like, “I want to do something foolish! Will you do it with me?”
As Yvonne’s husband, Victor-Emmanuel, Michael Hayes brings another fine voice to the stage. Victor and his friends, Dr. Finache (Don Rashke) and Romain Tournel (Ric Sadler) form a comical trio that adds to the mirth. Portraying Lucienne’s husband, Don Homenides, Dale Trimble has enough boisterous bluster to keep things lively. His moustache and thunderous characterization remind one a bit of Saddam Hussein, and his raging is made more hilarious when the speech-limited Camille quips, “I can’t understand a word he’s saying!”
With a clever rotating set and plenty of flashy red gaudiness, Act II is set in a hotel of ill repute, the Pretty Pussy Inn. This scene had them rolling in the Crighton aisles, and the audience really exercised their laugh muscles. The non-stop mix-ups and shenanigans are not to be missed. The maid, Antionette (Debbie Reed), and her butler husband, Etienne (Joseph Mastrangelo) both add nicely to the merry-making. The comical cast of characters at the hotel includes Kristi Easter as Eugenie, Terry Woods as Olympe, DeForest (Doc) Walton as Uncle Baptistin, Wesley Bush as Rugby, and Patricia Rashke as The Lady on the Stairs. Talented Vince O’Connor offers broad slapstick presiding hilariously as the (literally) ass-kicking hotel manager, Ferraillon. But the real scene-stealer is Mr. Hayes in a double role, repeatedly switching back and forth between his characterizations of the dignified Victor-Emmanuel and the slouching hotel porter, Poche. His Poche is an intoxicated and amusing dolt in the Red Skeleton tradition, and reminded me of Jackie Gleason’s poignant performance in the title role of the film, “Gigot.” With baggy pants and waddling body language, Hayes tickled audience funny bones big time as he carried off this perfect game of mistaken identity.
Of course, in Act III, all ends happily, and then there were plenty of smiles in the lobby as the cast offered final farewells to the cheerfully departing audience.
Evening performances of “Flea” (through April 7th) are at 8:00 p.m. There will be a 3 p.m. matinee on March 31. For information call: 936-441-7469.
(The Courier 3.30.03)