Saturday, June 1, 2013

Serendipity's "Fuddy Meers" Funhouse of Life

The dark comedy is written by David Lindsay-Abaire, and directed by Tony Broom and Joni Moore plays through June 8 at Serendipity Playhouse, 500 Washington St., Vancouver, Wash.

Depending on the individual, life can be seen from many different angles or perspectives. It’s like, in this case, looking through a prism or kaleidoscope, where everything appears distorted or jumbled. And dysfunctional families can appear to be pretty normal, considering the basis for comparison. In other words, if normal is crazy, in this world, then what is crazy. An interesting premise and the core of this story.

As we look through these distorted, funny mirrors (“fuddy meers”) of a funhouse we meet Claire (Alicia Marie Turvin), a patient in her own home, with a type of amnesia that allows you the skills of  function but, by the next day, your memories of who you are, will have disappeared. Her husband, Richard (Tory Mitchell), attempts to help her by creating a memory album or log of her past, conveniently eliminating certain aspects of it for her own good.

Gary Romans as Millet with (puppet) Binky.
All photos by Christopher Paradee.
Her son, Kenny (Mac Alexander), is a doper and is of no help. Enter her “brother, Zack” (Brian Reed), a disfigured, limping man, and a cohort, Millet (Gary Romans), who has his own little friend, a foul-mouthed puppet named, Binky. They abduct Claire, and take her to her real home, with her stroke-recovering mother, Gertie (Jan Rosenthal), whose speech is garbled by her recent illness.

But, not to be outdone, Richard and Kenny do not take kindly to this kidnapping and charge to the rescue, only to be intercepted by a nosy cop, Heidi (Cecelia Harper). Suspecting dope, she attempts to detain them, but is taken prisoner instead. The chase ends with all the suspects at Gertie’s house where, little by little, the true story is revealed.

 I can’t tell much more of the story without giving away plot twists. But it’s safe to say that not everybody is who they appear to be. For instance, what are manacles doing on two of the characters’ wrists? How did her brother really get his scars? And who is “Philip” that Claire keeps calling for?

The set/lights, also by Turvin, reflect nicely the crazy-quilt atmosphere of the show. And the transitions between the many scenes are reasonably smooth. The direction by Broom and Moore do well in reflecting the chaotic pacing of the story, with a couple of nicely done fight scenes. But they need to stress to the cast, the need for picking up cues, as that is crucial, especially in a comedy.

Alicia Marie Turvan and Brian Reed in "Fuddy Meers"
Turvin, as Claire, is the heart of the show and it beats a steady rhythm with her in the lead. It’s not an easy character to portray, as she must ride that thin line between madness and sanity, as well as become a sympathetic person for the audience to identify with. She does this with ease. Another difficult character is played by Rosenthal, as Gertie, as many of her lines are deliberately garbled and yet must be communicated by the actor, as though she knows what she’s talking about. This, also, is a well performed.

Reed, as the not-too-bright, scarred man is wonderful in the way he slurs his speech, has uncontrollable fits of rage, and lumbers about the sets like a bull in a china shop. Again, well done. Romans, as his partner, Millet (and like-wise, his partner, Binky) are a joy to watch. Again, a difficult character, well executed. And Mitchell, as her kinetic care-giver, Richard, is a live-wire on stage. His energy alone makes up for some of the lost timing of the others.

Jan Rosenthal in Serendipity's "Fuddy Meers"
Harper, as the “cop,” Heidi, comes on like a loose cannon. She barrels through the scenes like a dynamo, giving good contrast to the other eccentric characters. But Alexander, as the son, is a little too subdued and needs more direction/force to compete with the madness of the surroundings.

I would recommend this show but, keep in mind, the adult language and situations are not everybody’s cup of tea. If you do go, please tell them Dennis sent you.

WARNING: This play is not for everyone as it contains raw language and humorous references to substance use.

Mac Alexander, Tory Mitchell and Cecelia Harper.
Opening night is May 31 at 8:00 PM. The production run includes performances at 8 PM on June 1, 6, 7, 8, 14, 15, 21, 22, with Sunday matinee performances at 2:00 PM on June 9, 16, and 23. Thursday, June 6th at 8 PM is a "Pay What You Will" performance. All performances take place at The Serendipity Playhouse, 500 Washington St, Vancouver,Wash. For further information, check out their website at

Tickets are $15 general admission and may be purchased online at, or reservations can be made by calling 360-834-3588. Tickets are also available at the door. Doors open 30 minutes before the performance.


By Dennis Sparks, Guest Reviewer

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