Mistaken identity? Check. Double entendres that would make your grandmother stifle a giggle? Check. Over-the-top characters going in one door and coming out another? Check mate. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Frisky Puss Hotel, home to Rockville Little Theatre‘s charming and uproarious farce, A Flea in Her Ear.
George Feydeau’s classic tale, newly adapted by David Ives, tells the story of the upscale and haughty Raymonde and Victor Chandebise, a well-to-do couple who adore each other despite Madame’s erroneous suspicions of her husband’s fidelity. Kryss Lacovaro’s Raymonde is fascinating in that the actress appears to be cast against type, yet within 10 minutes on stage she owns this sassy, hurt, vengeful wife with her acerbic delivery and very funny impressions of other characters.
Penick’s Victor maintains rooting value throughout the show, from when he exposes his secret emasculation through a “knock-knock-knock,” (and that’s all this writer will give away on that front) to his irate, baffled and appalled reaction to being kicked in the arse repeatedly by hotel owner, Ferraillon (embodied with military precision by Eric Henry in a terrific performance). His mastery of the farcical diction (think Madonna thinking she’s British) and suave style on stage draws the eye to his every move. Once Act II begins, one sees just how talented and comically gifted is Penick…for reasons I can’t divulge. How’s that for a teaser?
The cast successfully fulfills the requirements of a farcical ensemble, with a few standouts worth mentioning. Amanda Gordon and Noah Steurer are hilarious as sidekicks Lucienne Homenides de Histangua and Romain Tourell. Their comic timing is sharp and their faces reveal their commitment to their characters’ ludicrous antics. Darrell Andruski is absolutely hilarious as the consonant-deficient Camille Chandebise. He speaks only with vowels, which serves to provide laughs and elicit our sympathy. His hamstrings are bionic, as evidenced by his backwards jump into standing position on a tacky zebra print chaise lounge.
The smallest role is filled with the greatest flavor in Patrick Pase. His Daddy Warbucks scalp pokes out of his hotel room every few minutes asking in thick Cockney, “Have I got any calls?” Pase gets laughs every single time he utters this one line, because his entire being is committed to his mission-to find his missing and anonymous bed mate. His salacious snicker as he chases tail, followed by his inevitable incredulity when every coquette runs out of his room screaming, is priceless. Pase’s perfect cockney is worth mention as the actor still routinely wears his authentic hometown Texas cowboy hat.
The production boasts a garishly tacky pink set spanning the whole stage. Eric Henry’s brilliant set is elaborate, detailed, and a true spectacle. A rotating wall in the main boudoir serves both to impress the avid theatre goer and delight the first time patron. The levels, crucially stable doors, and pink pinkness (in case anyone missed that nugget, there is a lot of pink happening here) serve all purposes including eye candy to wake the weary. Gene’s Costumes’ costumes become a part of the set design, with every character splashed somewhere with (say it with me) pink. The neutral set in Acts I and III look like a sepia-enhanced black and white photo with dabs of pink breaking through on the moving bodies. Kevin O’Connell’s plate was full as sound designer, creating the sounds of bedroom brawls, ringing doorbells, and entertaining intermission music.
Director Laura W. Andruski milks the genre, employing pratfall gimmicks, winking actors, and facial mugging. She clearly gives her actors room to make the characters their own. Her recent move to the DC Metro area is a welcome one.
A Flea in Her Ear has only one performance left – today – Sunday, October 14th at 2 pm – at F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre at The Rockville Civic Center – 603 Edmonston Drive, in Rockville, MD. For tickets, purchase them at the box office, or call (240) 314-8690.