The alarm clock rings, and a woman wakes up just as her husband enters with the morning coffee. The sun is up, and a beautiful day is in the offing.
There's just one problem: She cannot remember who she is.
The man calmly hands her a day planner filled with pertinent facts, photos and maps, as he explains to her that she's suffering from a form of psychogenic amnesia. Each morning, she reassembles her life; each night, she forgets all over again. While her husband showers, her disorientation worsens. A man in a black ski mask bursts in and says he's her brother, here to rescue her. The man in the shower has tried to kill her, he says. She must leave with him at once. Before she's even finished her coffee.
Playwright David Lindsay-Abaire's Fuddy Meers is a neat theatrical hat trick, a trust-no-one thriller in the vein of a George Cukor or Alfred Hitchcock film sent up as a screwball comedy. Under Jesse Gephart's deft direction, a fine Page Purgar straps in as the lead Claire and takes us along on this addled joyride of a show.
Though her husband's playbook is the first thing out the window, literally, as she's abducted by her sinister brother Zachary (Brian Yandle), Claire pieces together her past as the action shifts to her childhood home. There, her mother, Gertie (a solid Maggie Rasnick), seems alarmed to see her son. And she has something important to say, if only a recent stroke hadn't scrambled her ability to speak.
In this script, Lindsay-Abaire tosses out assumed names, psychological quirks and dark family secrets like party favors. Take it as given: In this world of intimate strangers, everybody's hiding something.
Eric Morales sailed here as Richard, Claire's husband, who's trying to turn his back on a life of crime, and a rewarding Laura Bess Jernigan made with the laughs as Heidi, a lovelorn prison cafeteria chef. But Justin Brent Johnson was never fully convincing when his decidedly soft-boiled ex-con named Millet manifested his schizophrenic alter ego, a blue-headed hand puppet called Hinky Binky. And we only bought Darian Dorafshar's disaffected teen, Kenny, after he turned more compassionate late in the second act.
Still, 13 years after its regional debut at Manbites Dog Theater, Fuddy Meers remains a descent into psychosis, felonies and what is certifiably the worst of all possible family reunions—for laughs. Enjoy the trip.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Forgotten histories."