By Beki Pineda

FUDDY MEERS. Written by David Lindsay-Abaire; directed by Emily Tarquin.
Produced by Phamaly Theatre Company at the Aurora Fox Arts Center through
Feb. 21 (9900 East Colfax, Aurora) and the Arvada Center from Feb. 26-28
(6901 Wadsworth Blvd., Arvada). Tickets available at the Fox at 303-739-1970
or auroragov.org or at the Arvada Center at 720-898-7200 or
arvadacenter.org.

Phamaly sets the immediate tone for this outrageous production by building
the set to look like a bouncy castle (think children’s birthday-party fun)
and filling the preshow air with merry-go-round music. Intuitively the
audience is warmed up for a night of fun.

Lindsay-Abaire’s script is so full of concentric twists, it’s impossible to
explain much about the plot without spoiler alerts for every sentence.
Suffice it to say that Claire, the main character, has psychogenic amnesia;
most of the rest of the characters are just plain psycho. This means that
every time Claire goes to sleep, she loses her memory and has to start from
scratch every morning. She has basic knowledge; she just can’t remember
people and places. Her husband has prepared a notebook for her that explains
who people are and provides a list of where everything she might need is
located. The day we observe, however, must be extraordinary because it
includes being kidnapped by a limping man with one ear and a nervous guy who
talks to (and through) a hand puppet.

The first-act exposition gets Claire to her mother’s house. One more
complication: Her mother has had a stroke and speaks in nearly
unintelligible gibberish-hence the “fuddy meers” description of the mirrors
in a carnival fun house. Indeed, Claire’s memory is like the distorted view
seen in those wavy mirrors.  All of this leads to one of the best Act I
climaxes ever written.

Slowly clues emerge as to the true identities of all the players and their
places in Claire’s living nightmare. She slowly begins to remember small
things: a tree her brother used to climb, her son’s birth weight, how she
met her husband-oh, wait, not that one. By the end of this day, she has
figured nearly everything out. You are left hoping that Claire’s next day of
discovery is not quite so hectic as this one proved to be. But as she falls
asleep in the car, those who truly love her can only hope.

The lighting design by Shannon Johnson keeps the three acting areas clearly
delineated and allows for a minimum of set pieces being moved about. The
character Millet (the puppet man) mentions that he has stolen his suit from
Goodwill. In a tiny humorous side note, costumer Katie Horney left the
Goodwill sales tag in place.

Jenna Bainbridge displays Claire’s confusion with wide-eyed wonder. Trenton
Schindele continues a string of good parts with his long-suffering but
infinitely patient and hopeful husband. Lucy Roucis is the calm eye of the
storm as the stroke-affflicted mother who tries to provide clues to her
clueless daughter.  Daniel Traylor plays Millet, the troubled and angry
accessory to kidnapping. But the surprise of this cast is James Sherman, who
stepped out of ensemble roles to lead as the “Limping Man” kidnapper. He
confidently leads the cast and the audience to the secret heart of the
story.

You have one more weekend to see this show at the Fox before it moves to
Arvada for one additional weekend.

WOW factor: 8