A fast-moving farce at the Denver Center
DENVER – At one point in the Denver Center Theatre Company’s production of the classic French farce “A Flea in Her Ear,” the art of theatre boils down to simple traffic control. It’s a credit both to Kent Thompson, the director, and the cast of seasoned actors that they pull off Georges Feydeau’s play with such a high degree of precision. “Flea” is nearly 100 years old, having first been performed in 1907. But apart from the period costumes and sets and some of the language, it’s as relevant – and silly – today as it was a century ago. The main difference is that, were it set in modern times, the catalyst for all the action would be negated by the existence of Viagra.That’s because Victor Emmanuel Chandebise (played by DCTC veteran Jamie Horton) is afflicted by what’s known today as “erectile dysfunction,” and his lack of amorous advances has his wife, Raymonde, wondering if he’s having an affair. To test his faithfulness, she writes a note from an “anonymous admirer,” suggesting a tryst at the Hotel Coq d’Or – a seedy hotel of the “no-tell” variety.
Through various misunderstandings too numerous to detail, everyone and his brother shows up at the hotel in the second act. In addition to Victor and Raymonde, her friend Lucienne (Angela Pierce) is there as well, pursued with jealous fervor by her daft, gun-toting Spanish husband Carlos (Sam Gregory). Erik Sandvold plays Etienne Plucheux, the husband of the Chandebise maid Antoinette (Stephanie Cozart), who mistakenly ends up in the arms of Herr Schwarz (Mark Rubald), a lascivious Prussian soldier whose room acts as a sort of Venus fly trap for fleeing damsels. And then there’s the remarkable Douglas Harmsen as Camille Chandebise, who suffers from a speech impediment that can only be cured by an often-missing palate appliance supplied by rakish Dr. Finache (Randy Moore).Got it? There’s more: John Hutton – another of DCTC’s finest – is the self-enamored dandy Romain Tournel, who would cuckold Victor if only Raymonde would take the affair seriously. The brassy hotel madame Olympe is played by another DCTC stalwart Kathleen M. Brady, while the innkeeper Augustin is rendered with bizarre flourish by Bill Christ.Those at all familiar with DCTC will recognize an awful lot of familiar names here. In addition to directing this particular show, Kent Thompson is also the theatre’s new artistic director. His aim with “Flea” was to reaffirm the presence of those in the company who are sticking around as well as to show his own directing chops with a classic yet difficult play.
He succeeds on all levels. What a treat to see so many of Denver’s finest actors on the same stage at one time. And only a seasoned director and crack cast could have so cleanly pulled off this play, a rapid-fire farce that demands split-second timing at breakneck speed to work.It doesn’t hurt that Thompson has Jamie Horton at the center of the action. In addition to his role as Victor Emmanuel, Horton also plays Poche, the Hotel Coq d’Or’s drunken hall porter who bears a striking resemblance to Victor. A gifted comic and dramatic actor, Horton gets to, literally, wear both hats in the course of the play, managing to transform both costume and personality in what seem like impossibly short periods of time.”A Flea in Her Ear” is silly fun, no doubt, but it’s also live theatre at its best. It manages to amuse and amaze with performances so well-wrought and well-rehearsed that they make it look like they’re flying by the seat of their pants.
Alex Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 615, or email@example.com.Vail, Colorado