Dark comedy to open the theater season

On Oct. 7 through Oct. 9, the St. Olaf theater department will run its first show of the 2016-17 season, “Fuddy Meers” by David Lindsay-Abaire.

The play, guest-directed by Randy Reyes, tells the story of Claire, a woman who suffers from memory loss. As Claire struggles to regain her memory, she is bombarded by a cast of kooky characters including her pothead son, her speech-impeded mother and an escaped convict with a sock puppet.

Reyes comes to St. Olaf not only to direct the fall Haugen show, but also to teach this semester’s beginning directing class. Reyes is the artistic director of Mu Performing Arts in Minneapolis and serves as a theater educator at institutions across the country, including the Playwrights’ Center, the New York University graduate acting program and the University of Minnesota/Guthrie bachelor’s acting program. In short, he is a brilliant professional actor and director.

The process for “Fuddy Meers” has been atypical compared to the St. Olaf norm. Rather than rehearsing a few hours a night throughout the week, the cast has rehearsed only twice a week for eight hours at a time. Though intense, this process has not become tedious for anyone involved.

“It perfectly fits the show because it really lets [the actors] get into the characters which are really bizarre and which are not easy to just take off and put down easily,” assistant director Aaron Lauby ’19 said.

“There was no atmosphere or hesitation around it. We were into it from day one,” stage manager Shelby Reddig ’17 said.

“No one ever realizes how fast the time has gone,” Lauby said. “Every time we practice we find a new thing about the language.”

Reddig agreed that the team is enjoying their hard work: “You get funny moments in the rehearsal with misunderstanding,” she said. “Actors have to make big choices to make it an interesting show. And then the directors have to say, ‘Thank you for making that choice but it is a little weird so we are not going to do that.’”

“Fuddy Meers” is a dark comedy that promises to keep the audience laughing for long stretches, whether it be out of mirth or of nervousness.

“[‘Fuddy Meers’] is supposed to make you think of important things but not in a really heavy way,” Reddig said.

For instance, Claire’s psychological status is not simply a source of entertainment, as Tara Maloney ’19, who plays Claire, pointed out.

“It’s finding the balance between being innocent and also being skeptical,” Maloney said. “I read it like she is completely happy but in real life someone would not be just completely happy. She is just trying to be. So I have to show that she is trying.”

Other members of the cast include: Ian Sutherland ’18 as Richard, Ash Willison ’17 as Kenny, Chaz Mayo ’18 as Limping Man, Christine Menge ’18 as Gertie, Will Ibele ’18 as Millet and Avery Evangeline Baker ’19 as Heidi.

“Fuddy Meers” will perform in Haugen Theater from Oct. 7-9. Tickets are free for students and can be reserved online or at the Theater Building’s box office.