What if you woke up every day with no memory? That’s the premise of “Fuddy Meers,” David Lindsay-Abaire’s 1999 absurdist farce. Its odd balance is difficult to pull off, but Theatre in the Park’s cast and creative team do so with aplomb.
In the first scene, Claire wakes up to a man saying he’s her husband, Richard, patiently explaining her psychogenic amnesia. After Richard goes to shower, a man with a lisp and a limp pops out from under Claire’s bed and convinces her to go with him, telling her Richard is going to kill her. As they drive away, the man tells Claire to trust him for the real details of her life. They arrive at Claire’s mother’s house, where they meet Millet, a nervous young guy with a hand puppet. Claire’s mother Gertie seems upset, but can’t express herself easily because of a recent stroke.
Meanwhile, Richard and teenage son Kenny are speeding towards Gertie’s house but get stopped by a female cop, whom Richard tricks into going along. Once they arrive, the plot spins out in increasingly surprising ways, with Claire not knowing whom to believe about the proceedings.
It takes much of the first act to figure out what’s happening (just as for Claire), but by the riotous first act ending, the evening becomes a gripping wild ride. The playwright works in some chilling commentary on domestic violence, mental conditions and parenting problems, but the overall zaniness softens the sting.
Director Jesse R. Gephart gets admirably focused characterizations and precise timing from his cast. Page Purgar rightfully centers the play with Claire’s sense of wonder and discovery, bringing the audience along on her journey. Brian Yandle gamely takes on the Limping Man’s punishing slapstick requirements, partnering well with Justin Brent Johnson’s hilarious Millet, who uses a Southern accent for his foul-mouthed puppet’s zingers.
Maggie Rasnick perseveres amusingly with Gertie’s “stroke talk” (the play’s title is one attempt), while Laura Bess Jernigan’s cop Heidi gets laughs revealing her true self. Eric Morales’ Richard and Darian Colson Dorafshar’s Kenny add comic father-son angst to the mix.
Stephen J. Larson’s elaborate settings of bedroom, kitchen, car and basement are impressive.
Despite a fair amount of strong language and some scenes that go on too long, “Fuddy Meers” is a worthy choice for summer entertainment.