“A cross between Sesame Street and David Lynch,” is how one Rubicon Theatre Company actor described Fuddy Meers. David Lindsay-Abaire’s work features an amnesiac woman who wakes up each morning with no memory of anyone or anything in her life. It’s an apt description of this very funny, often frenetic and surprisingly touching play, now at the Rubicon.
When we meet Claire (the wonderful Precious Chong) she is being awakened by her husband, Richard, portrayed with complexity and comedic verve by Joseph Fuqua. With remarkable patience, sprinkled with a hint of exasperation, Richard goes through the paces of reminding Claire who she is, who he is, along with everything else, with the help of a book of memories that he’s created for her. Also at home is Claire’s son, Kenny, all teenage angst and impatience, played with the right mix of tenderness and fury by Seryozha LaPorte. It’s just another ordinary morning in their somewhat weird household . . . until things get really, really strange.
Without giving too much away, Claire encounters a limping man (the commanding Stephen Caffrey) who warns her that everything Richard has told her is a lie. That’s when this hurly-burly carnival ride of a play really takes off. We meet Gertie (the marvelous DeeDee Rescher), who has a speech impediment due to a stroke, and Millett (the inspired Louis Lotorto), whose sidekick is a foul-mouthed puppet. Tracey A. Leigh is very good as Heidi, the final member in this crew of damaged misfits.
Fuddy Meers is filled with laugh-out-loud moments and startling surprises, with a twist at every turn. Brimming with childlike wonder, Claire goes on a journey of discovery, but it’s not all rainbows and sunshine: There are dark clouds ahead. In Lindsay-Abaire’s deft hands, deceptions give way to truths, love peeks through and we are left hoping that the unforgettable ride will lead the characters where they are meant to be.
Director Jenny Sullivan mines the riches of Lindsay-Abaire’s work and guides the gifted cast in bringing their best to light. Production manager, set designer and technical director Jim Prodger creates a brightly colored suburban world that cleverly hints at the past and suggests a darkness lurking beneath the surface. The sound, ingeniously co-designed by Sullivan and Kenny Hobbs, and the lighting by Mike Billings give insight into long-hidden memories. The fun costumes suggest that designer Pamela Shaw had a ball dressing the colorful cast. Set dresser and prop designer T. Theresa Scarano held nothing back in order to strike the right tone in this visually vivid production. Associate producer Beverly Ward and production stage manager Dale Alan Cooke complete the expert crew.
The Rubicon Theatre Company is known for producing classics and new works, neither of which would describe Fuddy Meers. Producing artistic director Karyl Lynn Burns explained that the Rubicon chose to do Fuddy Meers, which was first staged in 1998, because of how keenly it fits into where we are right now in our collective, confounding moment in history.
Lindsay-Abaire nimbly dances with hard truths, half-truths and downright lies and, miraculously, he holds hope and despair in the same space. In the play, Claire exclaims how she wishes someone would just tell her the truth. In this age of “fake news” and a seemingly endless stream of bad behavior, Fuddy Meers does indeed reflect our times. As we root for Claire (and ourselves), here’s hoping tomorrow is another day.
Fuddy Meers runs through March 31 at Rubicon Theatre Company, 1006 E. Main Street, Ventura. For tickets and more information, call 805-667-2900 or visit www.rubicontheatre.org.