Photos courtesy of Jonathan Lewis.
With hard-to-believe panache, energy and coordination, the Playhouse nailed this production of Georges Feydeau's 1907 farce, "A Flea In Her Ear." Directed by James Rice, it's a hilarious and aerobic romp through a misunderstood cause for an embarrassing effect that threatens to derail the otherwise um, vigorous marriage of Yvonne Chandel (Kate Woodruff) and her husband, Victor (Bill Wolski).
Yvonne doubts her husband's fidelity because he's no longer interested in sex. A Frenchman not interested in sex? Sacre bleu! Little does she know that his failure to launch has nothing to do with another woman and all to do with stress. (Speaking of bleu, Viagra was about a century away from being invented but nevermind).
Yvonne wants to get even and have her own affair with Victor's chum, Romain Tournel (Joshua Aguilar). Yvonne's chum, Lucienne Homenides De Histangua (Holly Baker-Kreiswirth), married to the jealous and, to put it mildly, fiery, Don Carlos (Pablo Alexander D'Adamo), dissuades her. Instead, she concocts a test, an anonymous letter to Victor that proposes an assignation at the Pretty Pussy, a discreet hotel (the name tells you all you need to know) run by former lady of the night Olympe (Judy Gish) and her ex-military husband Feraillon (Noah Wagner). Victor is flattered by the letter but, loyal husband he is, he's certain the letter was meant for Tournel, who goes in his place.
If the main story line sounds complicated, a slew of flirtations, infidelities, and idiosyncrasies further texture the production with generous doses of mayhem and hilarity. Victor is the spitting image of Poche, the hotel's alcoholic porter. Camille (Lee Samuel Tanng), Victor's nephew, has a speech impediment so he swallows his consonants. Rugby (Peter J. Rounds), a horny British patron, keeps trying to seduce the distraught wives that run in and out of his room. Antoinette (Eva Dailey), the Chandel's cook, is married to Victor's butler Etienne (Greg Wickes) but has coupled up with Camille. And, talk about great job descriptions, Baptistin (Douglas Seagraves), Feraillon's drunken uncle, gets paid to sit on his bed and drink. His only duty? To be spun on his bed, at the push of a button, from his room to the adjoining room of an in flagrante couple, who are whisked away from the eyes of the vice squad.
And yet, with this commotion that more resembles a rugby scrum than a French farce, there is order, purpose, and humor. Credit Rice's ability to juggle the complex story lines with unerring accuracy and the cast's ability to stay in character under a full head of steam without tripping over each other. Most of the memorable second act is an extended sprint in and out of the Pretty Pussy's rooms. Set designer David Scaglione gets kudos for creating a stage that ensured no bottle necks and Donna Fritsche gets customary kudos for period perfect costumes.
Performances are 8pm, Friday & Saturday and 2pm, Sunday. The show runs until May 11. Tickets are $14 - $24. The Playhouse is located at 5021 E. Anaheim St. For more information call (562) 494-1014 or visit www.lbplayhouse.org.