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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
A FLEA IN HER EAR
at Williamstown Theatre Festival

BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT
By SANDY MACDONALD

  Scene from

"Frothy" is usually the word used to describe French farce, but "frisky" is the right descriptor for David Ives's antic adaptation of Georges Feydeau's archetypal 1907 classic, A Flea in Her Ear, enjoying a splendiferous production at the Williamstown Theatre Festival.

"The Frisky Puss" is in fact the name that Ives, in his very loose but inspired translation, gives the no-tell hotel where all the Act II shenanigans take place. Set designer Alexander Dodge has rendered the multi-doored trysting spot in a frenzy of red and magenta - the antithesis of the Chandebises' coldly formal blue-and-white salon, where Mme. Chandebise (adorably earnest Kathryn Meisle) first hatches the idea of testing her husband's fidelity with a perfumed note from an "anonymous" admirer, proposing an assignation.

It would take a flow chart as intricate as a Metro map to outline all the comical subplots that thereby derive (Ives says he identified 47), so for succinctness's sake, perhaps it's best just to single out some outstanding performances amid a well-oiled ensemble set in infinitely amusing motion by director John Rando. Mark Harelik does valiant double duty as both Monsieur Chandebise (a repressed haute-bourgeois life-insurance exec) and his lower-class doppelganger, a comically masochistic sot of a bellboy. Jeremy Beck just about runs away with the show as Chandebise's nephew Emile, who's incapable of pronouncing consonants (it's he, of course, who's charged imparting crucial information mid-crisis). Brooks Ashmanskas, a natural-born scene-stealer if ever there was one, reins himself in adroitly as the family doctor, whose talents include balancing a top hat in an unconventional locale. David Pittu brings a Yosemite Sam-like volatility to the role of homicidally jealous hubby Don Carlos Homenides de Histangua, whose strenuously pronounced moniker invariably incites a laugh.

There are thousands more to be found in this sprightly gavotte. And if Rando's "Flea" doesn't nimbly leap to Broadway, there's just no justice in this farcical world.

 


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