Little Theatre’s ‘Fuddy Meers’ deserves a bigger audience

Poor Claire. In David Lindsay-Abaire’s “Fuddy Meers,” she suffers a form of amnesia that forces her to start each morning with little memory. In the end (no real spoiler here), after a long day of madcap adventure involving puppets, pot, guns, murderous ex-husbands and policewomen, the major concern of the lead characters is best summed up by Claire’s son. As Claire begins to doze off, he whispers, “Hey, Mom? Don’t go to sleep. I just want a couple of more minutes.”

“Fuddy Meers” is an exceptionally funny play, but that ending should give you some idea of how poignant it is as well. Director Mario Mendez expertly balances the in-your-face sight and verbal gags, with the quiet moments that make the play so human.

We’re greeted by a multi-purpose, simple set (by T.J. Larsen) featuring weird angled windows, framed pictures and bookcases. That, and the cartoon-zany between-scenes music, make it clear we’re in some kind of Bizzaro world.

We’re soon charmed by Marlena Shapiro as Claire, who, as her character begins the day, communicates the fright in her Claire’s confusion yet seems excited by the adventure that lies ahead. You can sense the hesitation in everything she says, until, as the play progresses, she begins to gain a sense of confidence, of clarity. Shapiro’s presence is the production’s rock.

Joel Wayman is hilariously threatening as a man who claims to be Claire’s husband. Yet, he won’t explain the circumstances surrounding an apparent accident that resulted in his becoming deformed.

Gail Romero manages to inhabit a role of a loving, elderly speech-challenged stroke victim who nonetheless saves the day by making herself understood. There’s so much concern in her eyes!

Kyle Jones is intriguingly flaky as a man who seems controlled by the rantings of his hand puppet.

And Jordan Goulet, as the angry, rebellious and ultimately loyal son, gets beyond the role’s limited shadings by giving the character a genuine heart. Goulet is a refreshingly natural actor.

At times — particularly just before and during the first act finale — the director loses control of the script’s reality, and events become silly. It helps you appreciate, though, how often Mendez is on top of his game.

Only a handful of audience members were present at last Sunday’s matinee. Too bad. The show deserves sell-out crowds.

Anthony Del Valle can be reached at vegastheaterchat @aol.com. You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.

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