note: entire contents copyright 2000 by Beverly Creasey
If Kaufman and Hart were writing today, they might have penned "Fuddy Meers" instead of David Lindsay-Abaire. It seems perfectly clear to me that Lindsay-Abaire took the madcap zaniness of "You Can't Take It With You" and made it contemporary with the dark trappings of today's dysfunctional family. The dysfunctional family of the thirties had basements full of fire-works instead of firearms. That's the only difference!
Director Eric Engel's production for SpeakEasy Stage is as light as a feather...chiefly due to the ebullient performance of Helen McElwain as the poor amnesiac whose life repeats in disastrous proportions every day....and due to the inspired lunacy of Thomas Derrah as a frenetic sad sack with a foul-mouthed alter-ego puppet named Binky attached to his right arm.
McElwain and Derrah are aided and abetted in their romp to self discovery by a manic Robert D. Murphy as the cheerful lisping psycho (that would be "thycho") who reminded me lock, stock and barrel of Raymond Massey in "Arsenic And Old Lace" (another sensational screwball comedy); by Kathleen Monteleone as the psychogenic amnesiac's adorably stroked out mother....and by the rest of the cast who in comparison seem NORMAL. (Barlow Adamson as the not as nice as he seems husband, Brian Barth as the not so bad as he seems kid, and Lisa Veshecco as the not as legal as she seems peace officer.)
There is of course no peace to be had in Engel's delightfully loopy pandemonium. Kristin Loeffler's corny costumes (especially for Binky the puppet) fit perfectly into Susan Zeeman Rogers' sunny-way too yellow set but J. Hagenbuckle's wound up, twisted carnival music says it all! What a ride!