A Flea In Her Ear

I feel terrible. I've never seen a play by Georges Feydeau before, and if this is what it looks like, I am bereft for having lived without it for so long. Top-notch direction (Geoff Elliott and Julia Rodriguez Elliott, consummately screwball) and a first-class cast give this production the zip and zing of the froth on a particularly strong brew. Jealousy drives the tale as Yvonne (a beguiling Dorthea Harahan) sets out to trap Victor-Emmanuel (Stephen Weingartner, doubly effective in two roles), the husband whom she is certain is philandering. Confidants, lovers, spinning beds, mistaken identities, and a silver upper palate figure into the overheated plot. The production is particularly fortunate to be possessed of that sine qua non of successful farce, Louis Lotorto, as Victor-Emmanuel's brother, a dear soul with no consonants in his repertoire. Lotorto adroitly lets the audience understand just enough of what he's trying to say and not one syllable more, aided in great measure by his mastery of physical comedy. Jill Hill, playing Yvonne's friend and co-conspirator Lucienne, gleefully abandons any notion of restraint as she wrestles the text handily to the raked stage. So invested is she in a scene involving the creation of a false billet-doux that one almost expects her smart little chapeau to pop off and steam to vent cartoonishly from her head. Richard Soto, as Lucienne's madly jealous Spanish husband, turns in a comic gem of outrage and lisped sibilants. Also delightful are J. Todd Adams as the callow lover, Mark Bramhall as a worldly doctor, and Jenna Cole in the too-small role of the mistress of the Pretty Pussy Inn. Brooke Parks, Alan Blumenfeld, Michael Manuel, William Dennis Hunt, and Stephen Rockwell complete the solid company.

The look is as heightened as the activity, particularly the wonderfully garish makeup (Joyce Ann Cantrell). The costumes (Kristina Lenss) are as handsome or as squalid as they need to be. Alana Schmidt's tatty but sturdy set is a show unto itself, as it is fully rebuilt twice over the course of the show. And to whomever thought to send out an unbilled and essentially shirtless young man at the end of each act: Thank you.