Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Fuddy Meers

'Stability is a fragile figurine,' says Richard (Matt Kronzer), as he tries to help his amnesiac wife Claire (Sarah Stockdale) make sense of her life.

Claire suffers from a form of psychogenic amnesia, where she wakes each morning knowing nothing, and spends the day learning about her life. She's helped by a book Richard has put together, to let her know how to find her way around the house, and who she's likely to meet each day.

It sounds like a spin-off of the film '50 First Dates,' or perhaps a riff on 'Groundhog Day.'

David Lindsay-Abaire's play, with the odd title of 'Fuddy Meers,' has been mounted by Studio 301 Productions, under the direction of Gia Battista.

The play continues through Sunday in the Art Annex of UCD's Technocultural Studies Building. Curtain times are 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, and 6 p.m. Sunday. Admission will be $10 general and $8 students at the door. For additional information, call (818) 251-6654.

The first challenge is to find the Art Annex. This can be a challenge for those not familiar with the UC Davis campus, especially since no helpful signs (or lights!) are present, at least not until you've just about arrived.

But this is a fun play, so do make the effort.

The nearby parking lot is well illuminated, and doors covered with black garbage bags have arrows that point to the correct door. The room is set up for 100 people, but only 15 of us were in attendance last week, on opening night; this is a shame, because the play is worth seeing.

Stockdale is a wonderful choice for Claire. Her face radiates innocence, first in the confusion of discovering that she doesn't have a clue who she is, and subsequently as she gradually learns things about her life from Richard, who may or may not be her husband.

But could she possibly have given birth to the sullen, stoned young woman named Kenny (Ashley Bargenquast)?

'How much did she weigh at birth?' Claire asks, as if trying to find some sort of maternal feeling for the girl.

David Lutheran plays the odd, deformed, lisping 'Limping Man,' who insists he is Claire's brother Zack, come to save her from 'Evil Richard.' Claire and Zack escape and go to the home of her mother, Gertie (Alison Stevenson), a stroke victim whose partial facial paralysis and impaired speech make it impossible for her to be understood. Despite this, she frantically tries to tell Claire things about her life.

Stevenson carries off the role brilliantly, and is very funny to boot.

Zack's crony is the mild-mannered Millet (Gordon Meacham), who comes with a foul-mouthed, alter-ego sock puppet dubbed 'Hinky Binky.' The puppet's stabbing, late in the play, is almost as touching as it is funny, given Millet's reaction to the assault on his long-time companion.

A policewoman (Steph Hankinson) adds another layer of confusion, as we realize that many in this cast aren't who they claim to be. The confused Claire slowly sorts them out, one by one, as her mother finds a way to make her message understood.

Claire knows one thing for certain: She likes to solve find-a-word puzzles, a hobby she embraces as a kind of grounding mechanism. She's delighted when she finds the word 'kiwi' on her own, without any assistance.

And this is what 'Fuddy Meers' is all about: finding words in a puzzle book, trying to decipher a mother's 'stroke speak,' looking for clues in a box of old photographs, registering random sparks of memory. Claire's life is a mystery, and she must try to sort it all out from the available clues.

But will she remember tomorrow?

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