LYDIA FRANCO-HODGES (Heidi) made her debut with the Hampton Theatre Company as Annie Dankworth in the company’s reading of THE HOUSEKEEPER. She has performed in “A Tribute to Kenneth Koch” at Columbia University’s Miller Theatre and as Angela in the new play, CHALLENGING ANGELA EVERYBODY, at the John Drew Theater of Guild Hall. Her play, HABITAT, was recently read in the Naked Angels series at the John Drew. Ms. Franco-Hodges teaches Theatre Arts at Stony Brook University.
ANDREW KARP (Millet) is pleased to return to the Hampton Theatre Company after appearing in DEATH DEFYING ACTS in 2003. He is Artistic Director of the Loft Theatre Company at Dowling College where he teaches Shakespeare. He has a Ph.D. from NYU, studied acting at Shakespeare and Co., Stella Adler and the Actor’s Center and has performed in the city and regionally. Favorite roles include Egeus/Snout (Hampton Shakespeare Festival), Polonius (Wooden O Productions), Buckingham (New England Shakespeare Festival) and, with the Loft, numerous productions including THE ODYSSEY (Odysseus), TWELFTH NIGHT (Malvolio), CAN’T PAY! WON’T PAY! (Giovanni), BACCHAE, TRUE WEST (Lee), BURIED CHILD, THE UNDERPANTS and an original dramatization of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, “Two Loves I Have.” Thanks to Sarah, cast and crew, and love to A, E and E, Squeegy and Caliban.
EDWARD KASSAR (Limping Man) played Lennie in the Hampton Theatre Company’s production of OF MICE AND MEN at Guild Hall. Other theatrical credits include THE ZOO STORY, ART, MISERY, HURLYBURLY, GOOSE AND TOMTOM, A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, SAME TIME NEXT YEAR, I HATE HAMLET, BURIED CHILD, NOT ABOUT NIGHTINGALES and THE NERD. Film credits include “Mulligan Farm”, “Down Clown”, “Nine Out of Ten”, “If I Only Knew” and “Scallop Pond”. Thanks to Mom, Dad, family and friends for their support.
DIANA MARBURY (Gertie, Producer, Set Decor) is pleased to be back on the boards after a brief hiatus. She was last seen in Arthur Miller’s DANGER: MEMORY! in the HTC’s fall play reading series. Diana has worked in many capacities with the HTC over the years and is delighted to be a part of a wonderful, dedicated group of theater people who work hard and steadily to provide live theater to our local communities year round. She looks forward to meeting the audience at the HTC’s fund raising gala in Southampton this August.
CAMDEN POLLIO (Kenny) is a writer/producer/teacher from Westhampton Beach. He majored in English at Boston College and has worked on shows like “Relationship Rehab” for E! Entertainment and independent films such as “Street Players”. He sends his love to his favorite people: Mom, Dad, Taylor, Genevieve, Casey, Kitten, Bull and Bear.
CHERI WICKS (Claire), a native of Lewistown, Montana, is excited to be working with the Hampton Theatre Company. Favorite New York theater roles include: Mercy in GREYHOUNDS, Agnes in THE SHADOW BOX, Estelle in NO EXIT, and Queen Margaret in HENRY VI, Part III. Television credits include “Sex and the City,” “The Sopranos” and “Law & Order.” Always—immeasurable gratitude to her husband, John Shaw, her family, friends and teachers for their love, support and wisdom.
DAVID LINDSAY-ABAIRE (Playwright) was born and raised in Boston’s inner city. When he was 12, he received a six-year scholarship to a prestigious New England prep school, and, being the son of a factory worker and a fruit peddler, his view of the world has bordered on the absurd ever since. Not surprisingly, David’s plays tend to be peopled with outsiders in search of clarity. Walking a line between grave reality and joyous lunacy, the world of his plays is often dark, funny, blithe, enigmatic, hopeful, ironic, and somewhat cock-eyed. David has received the LA Drama Critics Circle Award, a Garland Award, the Kesselring Prize, awards from the Berrilla Kerr Foundation, the LeComte du Nuoy Fund, Mixed Blood Theater, Primary Stages, the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival, and the South Carolina Playwrights Festival, and commissions from South Coast Rep, Dance Theater Workshop and the Jerome Foundation. David is a graduate of Milton Academy, Sarah Lawrence College, and the Juilliard School’s Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Program. Mr. Lindsay-Abaire was recently represented on Broadway by the hit show RABBIT HOLE. Other plays include KIMBERLY AKIMBO, WONDER OF THE WORLD, A DEVIL INSIDE, SNOW ANGEL THE LI’L PLAYS and THE KITCHEN SINK DRAMA.
SARAH HUNNEWELL (Director, Producer) wears many hats for the Hampton Theatre Company under the all purpose umbrella of Executive Director. Favorite directorial forays for the company include PROOF, SUMMER AND SMOKE, A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE, THE RAINMAKER, ORPHANS and THE LAST YANKEE. Many thanks to her excellent cast, crew and, of course, playwright David Lindsay-Abaire for making this show possible and to Jimmy for his support and encouragement. Many thanks as well to our new friend Ann Marie Carr for all her efforts, especially the glorious benefit planned for this August.
PETER MARBURY (Set Designer) is the resident set designer of the Hampton Theatre Company, working closely with James Ewing to provide the many varied environments that have crossed our stage over twenty years. Peter is a sculptor by trade (see his work at the Remsenburg Academy from June 30th to July 16th). In his down time, he fashions himself a yogi, African drummer and gardener, not necessarily in that order.
SEBASTIAN PACZYNSKI (Lighting Designer) designed SUMMER AND SMOKE, PROOF, NIGHT WATCH, PAINTING CHURCHES and THE PRICE for the Hampton Theatre Company as well as the new theater’s lighting system. He has designed lighting for theater, dance and special events in a number of Broadway, Off Broadway, Off Off Broadway and regional venues. He has also worked in film and television as the director of photography. Local design credits include RED HERRING, THE CHERRY ORCHARD, DRACULA, JULIUS CAESAR, MACBETH, HAMLET and MOBY DICK at the John Drew Theater and THE COMEDY OF ERRORS, THE TAMING OF THE SHREW, A WINTER’S TALE and TWELFTH NIGHT for the Hamptons Shakespeare Festival.
CHAS ROEDER (Costume Designer) has designed costumes for over 30 HTC productions. The first were THE LONG CHRISTMAS DINNER and A CHRISTMAS CAROL in 1985. Does anyone remember HOT L BALTIMORE, in a tent, before a hurricane? Some of his favorite costumes were for THE CRUCIBLE, LADY WINDERMERE’S FAN and SOCIAL SECURITY. Next he’s costuming SMOKEY JOE’S CAFÉ for the Quogue Junior Theater Troupe. Over the years Chuck has been active in the community with the WHB Performing Arts Center, East End Hospice, Family Counseling Service, WHB Architectural Review Board, Westhampton Chamber of Commerce and other organizations. After 29 years, this is Chuck’s last year here. As of September 1, he and Sy are moving to their home in Florida.
JOHN ZALESKI (Stage Manager) is happy to be back with HTC after too long an absence. At the John Drew Theater of Guild Hall last March he was the production stage manager for the critically acclaimed ART, directed by Steve Hamilton. In April, in a return to his roots in community theater, John oversaw stage left for the SCTC presentation of SOUTH PACIFIC, his second foray into Bali Ha’i and his 90th production overall. Thank you, Catherine, for your quiet support, encouragement and kicks in the ass as needed. And cheers to you, Dad! 3/9/27 – 6/1/01.
KRISTIN SINKEL (Assistant Stage Manager) is once again backstage with HTC. She recently appeared on stage as Ensign Cora MacRae in SOUTH PACIFIC with the Springs Community Theater at Guild Hall. Kristin has been stage manger or ASM for many HTC shows, including THE PRICE, PAINTING CHURCHES, NIGHT WATCH and PROOF. She is thrilled to be back and to be working with John Zaleski again… she is NOT the stage manager, she is NOT the stage manager… Love to her 2 dogs, her 4 cats, and her friends at Olde Towne Animal Hospital.
PRZEMEK JAREMKO (Lighting & Sound Tech) is a recent graduate of Hunter College where he majored in Theatre and minored in Film Studies. He works as an electrician and runs light and sound boards for shows in New York City and on Long Island, most recently ART at East Hampton’s Guild Hall.
by Fred Volkmer
We are, in a sense, what we remember: at issue of narratives, fragments, impressions, wounds, disappointments and joys. So much of literature is devoted to memory and its importance. “My subject is memory”, says Charles Ryder in Evelyn Waugh’s great novel, “Brideshead Revisited”. In “Remembrance of Things Past”, Proust wove an astonishing tapestry of a novel out of the memory of a small cake dipped in tea.
So, who are we when we have no memory? This is the dilemma faced by the central character, Claire, in David Lindsay-Abaire’s farcical comedy, “Fuddy Meers”, which is currently being presented by the Hampton Theatre Company on the stage at the Quogue Community Hall, under the direction of Sarah Hunnewell. The play opens with Claire emerging from sleep with no memory of who she is. She is greeted with a cup of coffee (and a rather alarming “Good morning, Huckleberry”) by her husband Richard, who patiently fills her in on her history and her tastes. Claire, we learn, has a rare form of “psychogenic amnesia”, that leaves her with no memory of anything that happened before the morning, though every now and then bits of her past do surface.
Richard has assembled a scrapbook of her life, which he has her read and which should explain for her everything she needs to know. A young man named Kenny appears, with a morning greeting to Richard of “Why don’t you just die?”
“Who’s that boy?” says Claire. “He smells like ribbon candy.”
“Your son”, Richard replies. “He smokes marijuana. I’m hoping it’s a phase.”
However, as Richard steps out of the bedroom to take a shower, a mysterious limping man in a ski mask appears from under Claire’s bed. He explains to Claire that he is Zach, her brother, and that Richard is going to kill her, so it’s necessary for both of them to escape.
He takes her by the hand and drives her off to the house of her mother, Gertie, a stroke victim who garbles her speech. We learn that Zach is on the lam, though we don’t know why, and that Gertie doesn’t like him and has testified against him, for a crime we also don’t know.
Of course Gertie can’t explain any of this to Claire, because of her aphasia, or what Claire describes as “stroke talk.” “Dashen dunder-mince-tate!” is one of the few phrases I understood.
They are met by Millet, a simpleminded man and fellow escapee, who does half of his talking—and all of his truth-telling—through a hand puppet named Binky, whose Tourette’s like profanities Claire describes as a “potty mouth.”
Richard, meanwhile, who may or may not be Claire’s husband, discovers that she is missing, and, with Kenny in tow, pursues Claire, thinking that she might have gone to her mother’s house, since that’s the picture that was removed from the album that he had prepared for her.
His composure begins to unravel and he shares a joint with Kenny, as well as a comic, marijuana-induced state. They are stopped by a policewoman, named Heidi, for speeding. She smells the marijuana and arrests them. They in turn take away her gun and hold her hostage, continuing in pursuit of Claire.
All of this does little justice to the absolute zany explosions of lunacy and physical comedy that erupt on stage from scene to scene. The play is a series of surprises, to the audience as much as to Claire. Nobody is really who they seem, with the exception of Claire and her mother. Of course, Claire can’t remember who she is and Gertie can’t make herself understood. Yet, gradually some of Claire’s memories return and in a state of total exasperation, trying desperately to make sense of her experience (as are we), she asks, “Would someone tell me what’s going on? Would someone tell me one bit of truthful information. . . please?”
Nobody is willing to do this except Gertie, who launches into an elaborate explanation, which is complete gibberish. So it’s only natural that Claire should bring down the house when she screams, “What the f*** are you talking about?!!!”
Mr. Lindsay-Abaire is clearly a devotee of Lewis Carroll. His most recent play is called “Rabbit Hole,” (currently a Tony nominee for Best Play) echoing “Alice in Wonderland.” (Incidentally, I’m told by a theater sophisticate that it was short-listed for this past year’s Pulitzer, though ultimately no prize was awarded for drama). And there is a Lewis Carroll “Jabberwocky” loopiness, a through the looking glass sense to all of these goings on.
The title of the play is Gertie’s rendition of “funny mirrors,” and in “Fuddy Meers” reality is distorted as in a funhouse mirror. The play is grotesque, darkly lunatic, often hilarious, and in the end strangely touching. Truth is elusive, and not always within our grasp. The impediments to speech are not only physical, but also psychological. Neither memory, nor language, nor families are fully functional in this play, nor, I suppose, are they in life.
Zach, who may not be Zach, not only limps, he is blind in one eye, deaf in one ear, and talks with a lisp. He describes Claire as a blank thlate. If he is Gertie’s son, his dialogue was often almost as confusing as hers. His character was wonderfully and convincingly inhabited by Edward Kassar.
Diana Marbury, whose diction is normally so crystalline, was delightful as Gertie, emitting a veritable goulash of syllables, while never missing a beat in her superb comic timing. How did she master so easily the language of Sesame Street’s Swedish cook?
As Millet (and as Binky), Andrew Karp, seemed a kind of psychotic Edgar Bergen, in a performance that I will long remember. Kyle Cranston, in the role of Richard, seemed a blend of Don Knotts and an unhinged Jimmy Dean, leaving us wondering if he was intent on saving or murdering Claire.
Camden Pollio gave a convincing portrayal of the rebellious Kenny, who did, in the end, tell the truth. Lydia Franco-Hodges got a lot of comic mileage out of the part of the very intense Heidi, who may or may not be a police officer.
And finally, Cheri Wicks gave a luminous portrayal of the very vulnerable Claire, the eye of this comedic storm, combining utter innocence with a tortured struggle for understanding. I almost didn’t think of it as a performance at all. Brava!
Sets, designed by Peter Marbury, were minimalist but effective: bedroom becomes transformed into kitchen and then into a basement and even a car on the highway. The lighting, designed by Sebastian Paczynski, with its black and white kaleidoscopic light show between scenes, seemed to underscore Claire’s confused state.
In this case, when it comes to memory, “the play’s the thing,” as old What’s His Name said. And Ms. Hunnewell has marshaled her forces in what is a true ensemble performance, each character drawing off the other in one of the most unique and “fuddy” theater experiences I’ve ever had.
Gallery images by Tom Kochie