BWW Review: A FLEA IN HER EAR at Westport Country Playhouse
Three years ago, this reviewer suggested that it was time to rediscover French theatre with the Westport Country Playhouse's production of David Ives's transplantation of Pierre Corneille's 1643 comedy, The Liar (Le Menteur). Happily, Mark Lamos, artistic director of the WCP, now brings us Ives's adaptation of Georges Feydeau's 1907 farce, A Flea in Her Ear (La puce á l'oreille).
Here's the story. It is the Belle Epoque, and Raymonde Chandebise (Elizabeth Heflin) is convinced that her insurance executive husband, Victor (Lee E. Ernst), is cheating on her. With the help of her long-time convent school friend, Lucienne (Antoinette Robinson), she concocts a plot to catch him at the Frisky Puss Hotel. Who ends up there besides these three characters, but his corporate doctor, Dr. Finache (Hassan El Amin), his nephew, Camille (Mic Matarrese), his friend, Romain Tournel (Stephen Pelinski), and Lucienne's husband, Don Carlos de Histangua (Michael Gotch)? Also at the bordello are Baptiste (Wynn Harmon), an elderly employee/decoy of the hotel and the bellboy, Poche (also played by Lee E. Ernst). Other characters include Etienne, the Chandebises' butler (David Beach), Olympia (Deena Burke), Eugenie (Laura Frye), Antoinette (Carine Montbertrand), Rugby (Robert Adelman Hancock), and the hotel owner, Ferraillon (John Rensenhouse). There's ample room at the inn as well as the manoir for slamming doors and scene stealing by the large cast of supremely gifted actors. It's hard to pick a standout because they are all absolutely perfect in their roles. That said, there are some particularly hilarious scenes, such as when Camille speaks without the silver palate that helps him pronounce consonants, and the scenes with the mistaken identities of Victor and Poche. Kudos to Matarrese for his lingual flexibility and to Lee for his agility to change from character to character with total credibility.
Lamos also directed the play, which is a co-production with the Resident Ensemble Players at the University of Delaware. Many of the cast members made their Westport Country Playhouse debut in this production but be assured that they are all highly experienced professional thespians, not students who may or may not make it one day. Kristin Robinson's scenic design and Matthew Richards's lighting were wonderous in the color casts in the Chandebises' classical French drawing room and the clever spinning bed in the hotel. Sara Jean Tosetti's costumes are equally gorgeous. Flawless sound from Fitz Patton. We didn't want to miss a word, especially ones spoken without o-o-e (consonants).
And you don't want to miss A Flea in Her Ear at the Westport Country Playhouse, running through July 28th. 25 Powers Court, Westport. (888) 927-7529 or (203) 227-4177. www.westportplayhouse.org. And, please, Mark Lamos, brings us more French comedy, s'il vous plait. C'est très, très magnifique!