Westport Country Playhouse (WCP) is currently presenting a delightful, French farce, “A Flea in Her Ear.” This classic comedy by Georges Feydeau and adapted by David Ives, is expertly directed by Mark Lamos, in conjunction with the Resident Ensemble Players at the University of Delaware. Old-time slapstick antics are difficult to reproduce and for today’s audiences to fully appreciate unless the entire cast and technical crew’s timing is absolutely perfect. Happily, this lavish co-production has most of the silly elements just right.
The three-act play is set in Paris during 1907. “Raymonde,” played with French finesse by Elizabeth Heflin, gets hunch (“a flea in her ear”) that her husband, “Victor” (Lee Ernst) has been unfaithful. Along with her equally, charming friend, “Lucienne” (Antionette Robinson) plans are made to entrap Victor at a notorious brothel. The pair then unintentionally set off a series of mistaken identities and frantic door slamming that surpasses any Laurel and Hardy comedy acts.
What makes this so much fun is that in Act I we are introduced to the amusing mannerisms of the large ensemble of main characters. These juicy tidbits allow us to thoroughly enjoy the insane bedroom interactions in Act II. However, by the time we reach Act III it’s inevitable for the action to wind down and the audience to lose patience with this comedy’s drawn out ending.
Lee Ernst makes lightening quick changes as both the husband, “Victor” and “Poch,” the hotel’s handyman. Stephen Pelinski plays Victor’s womanizing friend. Mic Matarrese is Victor’s cousin who has a speech defect that often gets him into a lot of trouble. Michael Gotch is the wild and crazy Don Carlo de Histangua. If Gotch had a pair of castanets instead of a gun he could have just as easily been cast as a Spanish dancer. Hassan El-Amin plays the fanatical Dr. Finache who specializes in imaginary ailments — mainly below the waist, and, David Beach is the head house servant who has to deal with his flirtatious wife, Carine Montbertrand.
Sara Jean Tosetti’s fashionable Paris dresses and accessories are exquisitely designed and belong in a museum. Kristen Robinson’ period living room set is just as stunning. Her high-class French brothel with its sexually arousing, red bedroom #5 has a revolving bed that contains a few surprises. Robinson’s artfully situated hallway doors are vital to the simultaneous actions taking-place in the establishment’s reception area.
The entire cast along with its technical and backstage crew deserves to take a bow for expert synchronization.
Plays to July 28
This review appears in “On CT & NY Theatre” July/2018