An EARful of Laughs at Hedgerow—A FLEA IN HER EAR

by Ellen Wilson Dilks
Penelope Reed, Zoran Kovcic and Shaun Yates star in A FLEA IN HER EAR at Hedgerow Theatre. (Photo credit: Ashley Smith)

Penelope Reed, Zoran Kovcic and Shaun Yates star in A FLEA IN HER EAR at Hedgerow Theatre. (Photo credit: Ashley Smith)

Hedgerow is sweeping in Spring—and starting their 90th birthday celebration—by staging Georges Feydeau’s classic farce, A FLEA IN HER EAR.   Written in 1907, at the height of France’s Belle Époque, this comic masterpiece has been performed around the world ever since its debut.   Hedgerow has opted to use a new adaptation by American playwright David Ives, best known for his play ALL IN THE TIMING.  Ives has set the action in the Paris of 1970, which works well since this was the era of the modern day “sexual revolution.”   (Although I have to admit to missing seeing the Art Nouveau fashions and décor of the original time frame.)

The plot deals with Victor-Emmanuel Chandebise, a successful Parisienne insurance broker, and his wife Raymonde.   Things have been going swimmingly in their marriage for lo these many years and now, suddenly, their love life has become non-existent.  Raymonde is convinced that her husband is cheating on her—and, therefore puts off her affair with his partner, Romain Tournel (nicely played by returning Hedgerow Fellow, Shaun Yates), until she catches her man in the act.  As the Chandibises, we have Hedgerow veterans (and real-life married couple) Penelope Reed and Zoran Kovcic.   The two work well together and bring their vast experience to the stage.

Raymonde’s best friend, Lucienne Homenides de Histangua (the always spot-on Heidi Starr), helps Raymonde compose a love note to Victor with an invite to rendezvous at a local hotel with a nefarious reputation.  Lucienne’s husband, an uber-fiery Spaniard (hilariously played to the hilt by Joel Guerrero), sees the note, recognizes the handwriting and heads off to the hotel armed to the teeth.   And, as they say, comedy ensues…

Adding to the mayhem: Chandibise’s nephew, Camille (wonderful newcomer Jordan B. Mottram. Excellent work.), who has a speech impediment and yet manages to woo the maid, Antoinette (another newcomer, Rose Fairley—well done); the insurance company’s doctor, a randy fellow named Finache (Neumann University Theatre head Terrence Gleeson plays Finache with panache. Sorry, I couldn’t resist); and the family valet, Etienne (a solid comedic turn by Curio company member Liam Castellan)—who’s married to Antoinette.  Of course, they all wind up at the hotel too.

The hotel staff is as disreputable as they come: Brian Boland gives us just the right amount of smarminess as hotel owner Ferraillon, with Mahogany Walker matching him note for note as his voluptuous wife Olympia.  Then there’s the drunken Baptista (Susan Wefel in another great turn), who serves as a sickly decoy in the beds should a spouse show up unexpectedly.  Rebecca Cureton is suitably coquettish as the hotel maid (and I use the term loosely) Eugenie.  The only actual customer we meet is a randy Englishman named Rugby (pitch-perfectly played by Ron Comer).   Finally, there’s the porter, Poche—who looks exactly like Chandebise (and is played by Kovcic).  It’s all quite silly, and there are the usual mistaken identities, miscommunications and slamming doors.

Director Jared Reed has kept the pace frenetic—perhaps too much so.   Reed is a wonderful director who is great at layering on lovely details, but sometimes there was too much movement.   Some of the actors didn’t seem grounded.   In order for farce to work, the characters must be real people reacting to an unrealistic set of circumstances.   This is the case for the most part in Hedgerow’s production, but there were a number of moments where the movement seemed superfluous.  And a few of the physical bits weren’t executed properly.   Perhaps this was opening night adrenalin and things will settle in as the run progresses.

Solid technical support was provided by the Hedgerow team.  New set designer Chris Kleckner has created a versatile set that serves as both the Chandibises parlor, as well as the hotel’s lobby and one of the rooms.  Director Reed has created the lighting and sound design—both of which serve the production well.  And, once again Cathie Miglionico has created great costumes that evoke the 70s nicely—and add to the characterizations.

A FLEA IN HER EAR is a madcap romp and Hedgerow has a knack for these types of shows.   There are plenty of laughs, as well as lots of double entendres.  It’s an enjoyable two hours of escapism to get you through these last days of winter and laugh you into Spring.

by Georges Feydeau
Adapted by David Ives
Directed by Jared Reed
March 14—April 28, 2013
Hedgerow Theatre
64 Rose Valley Road
Media, PA

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