0207FleaAudCallie Stephens, Ike Webster and Alan Kilpatrick talk about the characters they play, as well as other off-the-wall characters in "A Flea in her Ear."
Raymonde thinks her husband is cheating on her. So she calls Lucienne for help, whose notes to Victor make her own husband, Carlos, think she’s involved in her own tryst.
And on top of the confusion, one character’s speech impediment only allows him to pronounce vowels.
Such is the roundabout, slapstick farce "A Flea In Her Ear," which opens Tuesday at Brenau University’s Hosch Theatre. And the absurdity of the characters and the situations they find themselves in, said actor Ike Webster, just adds to the humor.
"In these types of strange farsical comedies, it’s all about the absurdity of it," said Webster, whose character, Don Carlos Homenides de Histangua, gets just as many laughs for his mangling of the English language as he does for running around the stage brandishing a pistol. "All of these characters are insane, but they don’t know they’re insane."
"A Flea In Her Ear" is a comedic romp centered around a wife’s suspicions of her husband’s activities while he’s away from home, and she becomes convinced he’s seeing another woman. After setting up an elaborate scheme to trap him, it soon becomes clear that some faithful spouses are just that — and other cheaters are exposed.
The trick with any physical comedy, said director Jim Hammond, is finding that balance among the actors between timing and rhythm. In auditions for the show, he said, not only did he have actors do cold readings of the script but also had them interpret drum beats with their body. That way, he said, it shows which actor could be creative and show the sound in a different way.
"In many ways you’re creating this extraordinarily complicated dance," he said of the comedy. "The actors not only need to be able to physically achieve the dance, but they are the music."
Now less than a week away from opening night, Hammond said the actors are taking these comedic "dances" and making them their own. He said ultimately the show should sound like a tapdancer.
"Just like a great dancer who can take choreography that’s been given to them, some dancers are able to execute that choreography with great precision," he said. "Then there are some dancers who are not only able to execute the movement but execute it from their heart. And that’s ultimately what these actors are doing now.
"They are connecting it all to the dramatic action of the play."
Callie Stephens, who plays Carlos’ wife Lucienne Homenides de Histangua, compared the characters to Phoebe from the TV sitcom "Friends."
"She’s completely ridiculous, and you have to know how far to push that character," she said. "And you think you’re normal and then you’re looking at the audience like, ‘Get it?’"
In total, there’s 14 characters running on and off stage, all mixing up each other — and nobody’s the wiser.
The number of characters also helps set the plot into motion, said Alan Kilpatrick, an Atlanta actor who plays Dr. Finache. Finache is in town to help settle a life insurance policy, and his constant misdiagnoses are another source of comedy and confusion.
"Always in farce there’s a lot of mistaken identity and slamming of doors. I have been in more physical farces in my time, but there’s a very good deal of physicality in this play," he said. "With 14 people, there’s much more opportunity for mistaken identity and slamming doors and people coming and going, and the inner workings of the plot get put in motion with 14 people."