When a husband loses amorous interest in his much younger wife, can there be any reason other than his infidelity?
What self-respecting wife would not want to set and spring the trap on her philandering spouse, catching him red-handed with his presumed paramour in a hotel of questionable repute?
And what does any of it mean, anyway, when the couple’s entire social circle — and presumably the whole of Parisian society — is threaded through with such infidelities?
Such questions drive the action in Georges Feydau’s A Flea in Her Ear, currently being performed by American Players Theatre on the company’s new multi-million-dollar outdoor stage.
The 1907 comedy is a farce for all seasons, which this year once again means both rain and shine. Director David Frank, APT’s artistic director emeritus, puts his cast of 18 through its rapid-fire and riotous paces, allowing them to do what the company does so well to hilarious effect.
Set at the height of France’s Belle Époque, the narrative spins a tale of mistaken identities, false assumptions, misfired accusations — and a jealous, hotheaded Spaniard with a pistol who has the potential to become everyone’s undoing.
Poor Raymonde Chandebise (Kelsey Brennan) no longer enjoys the loving attention of her husband Victor Emmanuel (David Daniel). She surmises he must be having an affair and contrives a plot to catch him. With the help of her friend Lucienne (Andrea San Miguel), they draft an anonymous love letter designed to trap Victor in the act.
But Raymonde plans her own affair, just in case, with her husband’s friend Tournel (Marcus Turschinski), a handsome bachelor enthusiastic about the idea. Through a series of unforeseen turnabouts, Tournel is the one who winds up in Raymonde’s net.
But that’s not all
Raymonde’s note, written by Lucienne, falls into the hands of Lucienne’s husband Don Homenides de Histangua (Juan Rivera Lebron), who recognizes his wife’s handwriting. The aforementioned pistol-packing Spaniard makes plans of his own to catch his presumed unfaithful spouse in flagrante delicto.
And this doesn’t even take into account the amorous antics of the household servants!
The action proceeds apace, aided along the way by a nephew with a speech impediment (a very funny Nate Burger), a lecherous and militaristic hotel manager (John Pribyl), his wife (Tracy Michelle Arnold), and a drunken hotel porter who looks very much like Victor Emmanuel (Daniel again).
As they should, things go from bad to worse for the ne’er-do-well characters, much to the continuous delight of audience members.
Scenic designer Jack Magaw gets top honors for his sets, which alternate between the Chandebise drawing room and the Mount Venus Hotel in which the assignations take place. Each is suitably decked out in period finery and the latter has a revolving bed used to perfect comic effect.
Fabio Toblini’s costumes and John Tanner’s original music also do much to enhance the ambience. On a stage often spare in past productions, the production values of Flea seem almost luxurious by comparison.
One of the best aspects about APT’s consummate theatrical skill is that company members steeped in the traditions of drama bring those same chops to runaway comedies like A Flea in Her Ear. In the case of Feydau’s play, those chops once again provide a comedic feast well served.
American Players Theatre’s production of Georges Feydau’s A Flea in Her Ear runs through Oct. 7 in the Hill Theatre on the APT campus, 5950 Golf Course Road, Spring Green. Tickets are $54–$88. For tickets, call the box office at 608-588-2361 or go to americanplayers.org.