No Identity Crisis for Switchyard Theatre’s Sharp and Funny FUDDY MEERS

The pieces don’t fit. Nothing adds up. And who are these people? Switchyard Theatre Company’s production of Fuddy Meers, by David Lindsay-Abaire, offers a rollicking journey with more twists and turns than a corn maze. 

Claire (Maggie Lea) wakes up every morning not remembering who she is. Despite this rare form of amnesia, she is a cheery soul who seems mostly amused by her situation, especially the actions of a man claiming to be her husband (Jason Christ) and a surly teen (Jacob Berger) who calls her mom. 

And then things get weird. A strange, limping man (Thom Haynes) persuades her to go with him to a farmhouse to meet her mother (Julie Oliver) whose speech has been impaired by a stroke. Toss in an escaped convict (Romane Durham) with a foul-mouthed hand puppet and a cop (Pat Luftman) in an ill-fitting uniform, and the bafflement deepens.

To the credit of director Jeff Aguiar, the pace is fluid, moving seamlessly between the absurd and frenetic as well as various layers of comedy and tension. In addition, a sprawling set, designed by Aguiar and Charles Machalicky, consumes the stage at Burning Coal Theatre and provides ample space for all the chaotic momentum. 

Aguiar’s cast offers captivating performances. Lea imbues Claire with a plucky attitude that carries the show. Christ seems to relish his role as her adoring husband and Berger captures the irreverent, petulant nature of a teenager. Haynes laces his character with an ominous touch while Durham’s Millet draws out the humanity of his slightly warped character. Luftman’s Heidi is intense while Oliver delivers an exceptional portrayal of a woman trying to communicate. Despite the unintelligibility, she conveys so much meaning through tone and looks.

But the outlandishness of Lindsay-Abaire’s script serves somewhat as a diversion as the reality of Claire’s situation is slowly pieced together, and the unbelievable becomes significant. By the end, an unexpected depth emerges and the thrill of knowing whether or not Claire will remember what she has discovered becomes a telling reminder that nothing is as it seems. 

The Switchyard Theatre Company’s production of Fuddy Meers runs through October 28 at Burning Coal Theatre’s Murphey School auditorium. For more information visit https://switchyardtheatrecompany.org/.

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