As we enter the dog days of summer, it’s a prime time for fleas as any dog or cat owner knows. At home, fleas are not fun, but at Pasadena’s A Noise Within, “A Flea in her Ear” is a rollicking good time. You’ll hardly notice the two hours and 30 minutes (with two intermissions). Georges Feydeau’s 1907 farce has been transported to a stylish 1950s Paris under the direction of Julia Rodriguez-Elliott and the ensemble performs with a great sense of timing and charm at this A Noise Within production.
The play concerns the beautiful Raymonde Chandebise (Elyse Mirto) who is married to Victor Chandebise (Geoff Elliott) yet suspects that he has been unfaithful. A pair of his suspenders have been returned from the Frisky Puss Hotel. The hotel is not a cattery, but a place where men and women stray and yowl their carnal pleasures under anonymity. Victor has not been frequenting the tawdry establishment; his nephew Camille (Rafael Goldstein) has using Victor’s name.
Camille hasn’t been lucky in love, mainly due to a speech impediment that leaves him unable to pronounce consonants. Victor’s good friend Dr. Finache (Joshua Wolf Coleman) has a cure for that, but the doctor also hopes to bed Victor’s wife. The doctor is not a man of many convictions, even in his professional life because “the lack of medical outcome is expanding my income” he explains.
As a test of her husband’s fidelity, Raymonde has her best friend, Lucienne (Jill Hill) write an anonymous love letter to Victor, asking him to meet at the Frisky Puss Hotel. Flattered Victor is certain the letter is actually for the doctor. Complications ensue as the action moves to the hotel and the handyman there, Poche (Elliott) happens to be a dead-ringer for Victor and Lucienne’s jealous husband, Don Carlos (Luis Fernandez-Gil) suspects that she is having a fling.
The transition to the 1950s is seamless although there is that odd segment where the main characters are speaking English when they are supposed to be French and a British patron at the hotel, Rugby (E.K. Dagenfield) is also speaking English and supposedly unable to understand the strange Parisian customs or the French language. That’s a minor point.
Feydeau himself lived a colorful life that included gambling. His own marriage failed and the program notes states this led to financial problems. In 1918, the playwright contracted syphilis in 1981 and the progression of the disease left him insane and then dead. He was only 58. Feydeau was successful during his lifetime and “A Flea in her Ear” in this new translation by David Ives shows us why.
Of course, we’d all be dead in flea years or even dog years. During these dog days of summer, take a brief staycation from fleas, fires and drought and the sometimes questionable fashion of the 2010s and travel back to the 1950s. At A Noise Within, Fred Kinney’s scenic design uses white and grey with accents of red for Raymonde and Victor’s home. You’ll wish you lived there. Then things go red dominant for the Frisky Puss Hotel. You’ll wish no one knows if you’ve been to such an establishment–one suspects there might be plenty of fleas there.
After the second intermission, we’re back to Victor’s home which has an alarming number of doors for a home, but do good effect when Victor and Poche are both on the scene. Angela Calin’s costume design will make you wish for the attainable glamour and good taste of the 1950s and then make you laugh at the wild clothing of the proprietors of the Frisky Puss Hotel.
This production of Feydeau’s farce plays like a 1950s screwball comedy. If you need a few laughs and like it better with a good dose of style, then don’t miss this excellent production.
“A Flea in Her Ear” by Georges Feydeau, in a new version by David Ives
Directed by Julia Rodriguez-Elliott
A Noise Within, 3352 East Foothill Blvd., Pasadena, CA 91107
Friday, October 2 at 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, October 3 at 2:00 and 8:00 p.m.
Thursday, October 22 at 7:30 p.m.
Friday, October 23 at 8:00 p.m. (Conversations)
Sunday, November 1 at 2:00 and 7:00 p.m. (Conversations after 2pm)
Saturday, November 7 at 2:00 and 8:00 p.m.
Thursday, November 12 at 7:30 p.m.
Friday, November 13 at 8:00 p.m. (Conversations)
Sunday, November 22 at 2:00 and 7:00 p.m.
Tickets and information:
Website: www.anoisewithin.org; Phone: 626-356-3100 ex 1
Prices: Single Tickets from $44.00; Student Rush with ID an hour before performance $20.00
Groups (10 or more): Adults from $30/ticket; Students from $18/ticket
Pay What You Can Performance: Pay What You Can tickets (Thursday, September 10 at 7:30 pm) go on sale at the box office window the day of the performance, starting at 2pm, and are sold on a cash-only basis based on availability; limit of two tickets per person.