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[whitespace] 'A Flea in Her Ear'
Farce Sides Everyon'e cooking up a scheme in San José Rep's 'A Flea in Her Ear.'

Naughty Noel

SJ Rep makes joyful mayhem with 'A Flea in Her Ear'

By Heather Zimmerman

WITH GEORGES Feydeau's French sex farce A Flea in Her Ear, San José Repertory Theatre may have found the best alternative yet to a traditional holiday production. The Rep celebrates the season with nary a sprig of mistletoe or a reformed sinner to be had--just laughter and lots of it. In A Flea in Her Ear, impossible coincidences abound, and most of the characters consist of little more than running jokes. And yet Feydeau pulls it off with sophistication and wit, creating well-crafted, ever-burgeoning chaos from a single device: an ill-advised ploy by a distrustful wife.

Suspecting her husband of adultery, Madame Chandebise (Elaina Erika Davis) determines to acquire proof by sending him a steamy anonymous letter requesting a rendezvous at the Hotel Coq d'Or, a notorious no-tell motel--if Monsieur Chandebise shows up, he's obviously unfaithful. To write the missive, she enlists the aid of her friend, Lucienne (Karole Foreman), who has a particularly hot-tempered, jealous husband. Through a series of misunderstandings, everyone from said jealous husband to the Chandebises' maid comes for the rendezvous. And to exacerbate the confusion, Poche, the hotel porter, is a dead-ringer for Monsieur Chandebise.

A superb cast and seamless direction by John McCluggage reveal Feydeau's rambunctious comedy as a true masterpiece of well-ordered mayhem. It takes skill to make things seem so hilariously out of control onstage, and here, every event and, eventually, every character completely unravels--yet quite believably.

Dan Hiatt, in the dual roles of Chandebise and Poche, offers an outstanding performance, switching masterfully between Chandebise's offended dignity and Poche's drunken confusion. Hiatt proves especially adept as a physical comedian--a scene involving Poche's retrieval of a hat from the wrong side of a gossip bench is worth the price of admission. As Chandebise's nephew, Camille, John Altieri finds warm humor in a one-joke character, garnering big laughs even when he can barely be understood due to his character's impenetrable speech impediment. Howard Swain lends a roguish appeal to the libertine Dr. Finache, who affects an breezy nonchalance throughout the chaos.

With such an exuberant, unapologetically silly production, San José Rep has reclaimed that crucial element that can sometimes get lost in the earnest trimmings of usual holiday fare: a good time. And a hearty laugh just might be the best present of all this year.

A Flea in Her Ear plays Tuesday-Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 3 and 8pm, Sunday at 2 and 7pm through Jan. 6 (with no performance Dec. 25) at the San José Repertory Theatre, 101 Paseo de San Antonio, San Jose. Tickets are $20-$44. (408.367.7255)

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From the December 27, 2001-January 2, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.

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