Total Rating: 
June 24, 2017
October 8, 2017
Spring Green
American Players Theater
Theater Type: 
Hill Theater
Theater Address: 
5059 Golf Course Road
Running Time: 
3 hrs
Georges Feydeau,adapted by David Frank & David Ives
David Frank

For pure entertainment, nothing beats a well-done French farce. When done as expertly as it is at American Players Theater in Spring Green, Wis., the laughter bubbles up almost from the first line of dialogue and continues until the final curtain.

That’s true for A Flea in Her Ear, one of Georges Feydeau’s best-known farces, which plays in APT’s recently refurbished Hill Theater. The play is set in turn-of-the-century Paris. All the elements of a good farce are here: suspicious spouses, cheating boyfriends, mistaken identity, clever servants, dim-witted masters, etc. What sets A Flea in Her Ear apart from other farces is its revolving bed in a guest room within the dubiously named Venus Hotel. It’s the type of hotel that rents room by the hour.

Productions, translations, and adaptations of this farcical masterpiece have popped up for decades. A 2006 adaptation by David Ives (on which APT’s play is partly based), was first performed at Chicago’s Shakespeare Theater, under the direction of Bill Irwin. A 1968 film of Flea starred Rex Harrison, Rosemary Harris, and Louis Jourdan.

The plot is so convoluted that it seems unnecessary to summarize it. Lets just say that Feydeau would probably be pleased by the modernization, as well as the performances of this talented APT cast, under the direction of David Frank.

All the characters share the spotlight, sometimes fleetingly, as they make quick exits and entrances. Five doors and/or entrances grace the outdoor stage, allowing characters to disappear or appear in an instant. As the play rolls to a close, and the chaos threatens to spill over the spotlights, Feydeau starts to piece things back together. Raymonde (Kelsey Brennan) is assured that her longtime husband, Victor Emmanuel (David Daniel), is not pursuing a mistress. The same cannot be said for a scene-stealing nephew, Camille (Nate Burger), who talks almost inaudibly at first due to a speech impediment. Thankfully, a doctor (Gavin Lawrence) concocts a device to eliminate all traces of the impediment. Speech problems or no, Camille is enamored of a married maid, the saucy Antoinette (Christina Panfilio). When her husband rushes to the Venus Hotel on business and spied her there, she borrows some magical powers from her role as Puck in another Hill Theatre show, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Panfilio’s character hoodwinks her husband, the butler (John Taylor Phillips) into thinking that his eyes were playing tricks on him. She insists she wasn’t at the Venus Hotel at all.

A hilarious subplot in Flea involves one of Raymonde’s former school chums (Andrea San Miguel) who is reluctantly drawn into Raymonde’s plot to expose her husband. Her husband, one of Victor Emmanuel’s clients (Juan Rivera Lebron), is a crazily jealous man with a gun (not a good combination).

As the hijinks continue, the audience may not notice details in the amazingly realistic set by Jack Magaw. The play starts out within Victor Emmanuel’s upscale living room/office (reflecting his senior status in the life insurance company for which he works). For the second act, the set rotates into the seedy Hotel Venus. Wallpaper in the “special” bedroom is peeling and water-stained. Satin linens and pillows are tossed indiscriminately onto the bed. Costumer Fabio Toiblini extends the “seedy” atmosphere to include a stained and dirty porter’s outfit, as well as a shabby dress for the innkeeper’s wife (Tracy Michelle Arnold).

For the third act, the set returns to Victor Emmanuel’s house. These small touches – viewed under the flawless lighting by Michael A. Peterson, are the only substances of credibility in an otherwise totally ridiculous play, with characters who strive vainly to maintain control in a show that clearly won’t let them hang on for long.

mild adult themes
Nate Burger (Camille, the nephew); Cristina Panfilio (Antoinette, the maid); John Taylor Phillips (Etienne, the butler); Gavin Lawrence (Dr. Finache); Andrea San Miguel (Lucienne); Juan Rivera Lebron (Lucienne’s husband); Kelsey Brennan (Raymonde); David Daniel (Victor Emmanuel, Raymond’s husband, and Poshe, a hotel porter); Marcus Truschinski (Tournel).
Set: Jack Magaw; Costumes: Fabio Toblini; Lighting: Michael A. Peterson; Sound/Original Music: John Tanner.
Anne Siegel
Date Reviewed: 
July 2017