Review Roundup: A FLEA IN HER EAR at American Players Theatre

By: Sep. 05, 2017
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A FLEA IN HER EAR at American Players Theatre plays at the Hill Theatre until October 7. It features Nate Burger as Camille Chandebise, Cristina Panfilio as Antoinette, John Taylor Phillips as Etienne, Gavin Lawrence as Dr. Finache, Andrea San Miguel as Lucienne, Kelsey Brennan as Raymonde Chandebise, David Daniel as Victor Emmanuel / Poche, Marcus Truschinski as Tournel, Juan Rivera Lebron as Don Homenides de Histangua, John Pribyl as Feraillon, Rebecca Hurd as Eugenie, Tracy Michelle Arnold as Olympe, Jopnathan Smoots as Herr Stompf, Kipp Moorman as Baptistin, and Robert R. Doyle as Hotel Guest.

Let's see what the critics had to say!

Lindsay Christians, The Cap Times: With more quick changes than a Katy Perry concert and attempted rendezvous that sound like Craigslist "Missed Connections," David Frank's new adaptation of "Flea" sparks with a modern spirit. The comedy runs up the hill through Oct. 7, a wild and woolly celebration of what the newly renovated stage can do. Frank, a longtime artistic director at APT, waited to stage Georges Feydeau's breakneck farce until the stage could handle the double-quick entrances and exits the script demands. Lovers' trysts proceed with such speed that by Act II, their escapades require a rotating bed that quickly swivels behind a wall... San Miguel, her mouth in a tight bow, instantly finds the heart of the farce - that strict, self-possessed dignity that the events of the play quickly break down. Her deadpan delivery and haughty posture make San Miguel, an APT newcomer, both a foil for Brennan's frothy Raymonde and an equal to her own hot-tempered husband (Juan Rivera Lebron).

Gwendolyn Rice, Isthmus: Jonathan Smoots, for instance, plays an amorous Prussian who only speaks German but communicates clearly (and hilariously) what he's looking for. Since his hotel room is mistaken for an exit or hiding place by virtually every other character, he has plenty of visitors to his bed, despite the language barrier. Even more delightful is Juan Rivera Lebron, who plays the fiery Spaniard Don Homenides de Histangua. The classic Latin lover whose passion for his wife Lucienne is accompanied by violent fits of jealousy, Lebron is cartoonishly funny, wielding pistols throughout the play and threatening to kill anyone who may have compromised his wife... Stuffed with mad dashes, clever fight choreography and frustrated desire, A Flea in Her Ear is a funny production that illustrates the trouble we cause ourselves through our own foolish machinations. The fact that the main character, Victor Emmanuel, is a successful insurance agent - in business to plan for and lessen the sting of the unexpected - underlines the fragility and uncertainty of the world, particularly when we meddle with it.

Michael Muckian, Wisconsin Gazette: Scenic designer Jack Magaw gets top honors for his sets, which alternate between the Chandebise drawing room and the Mount Venus Hotel in which the assignations take place. Each is suitably decked out in period finery and the latter has a revolving bed used to perfect comic effect. Fabio Toblini's costumes and John Tanner's original music also do much to enhance the ambience. On a stage often spare in past productions, the production values of Flea seem almost luxurious by comparison. One of the best aspects about APT's consummate theatrical skill is that company members steeped in the traditions of drama bring those same chops to runaway comedies like A Flea in Her Ear. In the case of Feydau's play, those chops once again provide a comedic feast well served.

Mike Fischer, Journal Sentinel: Feydeau's plays don't get done much in America: they're too hard, require too much rehearsal time and demand extraordinarily gifted actors who, ideally, work in repertory and therefore know and trust one another. Voilà APT, which features such actors as well as a newly revamped stage, able to accommodate the nearly 300 entrances and exits in this complicated play... What had initially resembled a measured drawing room comedy - an illusion reinforced by a characteristically detailed and realistic Jack Magaw scenic design - devolves into a nightmare that includes terrified screams, hurtling bodies and random violence. Sure, there's a return to order by play's end, but can one ever really return to normalcy after undressing so much of one's self and one's fears? You'll have a splendidly good time watching this well-acted "Flea." But as you traipse toward your car afterward, you might catch yourself wondering how much you really know of yourself and those others going downhill with you.

Aaron R. Conklin, Madison Magazine: Even when the jokes are telegraphed-you just know the button that spins the rotating bed in the center of the second-act stage is going to get hit Truschinski in the face-they land. Speaking of hitting, the cast is sure into tossing punches. Jonathon Smoots, playing a randy Prussian hotel guest who loves to lewdly twist the German past-participle "gefragt," got so into the tussling on opening night that his wispy prop beard flew off his face... French foppery seems far removed from modern times, but APT's production even slyly manages to dip its toe into the current political minefield..."A Flea in Her Ear" has its own commemorative place in APT's history, as it's the sort of play that was, for years, a hallmark of the seasons programmed by former APT Artistic Director David Frank, whose deft direction here keeps everything on track. While Frank used to rock farces like this back in the day-OK, the mid-2000s-this cast brings an additional level of skill and zip.



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