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Department of Drama Presents Feydeau’s ‘A Flea in Her Ear’
The Department of Drama concludes its 2015-2016 season with David Ives’ new version of French playwright Georges Feydeau’s bedroom farce “A Flea in Her Ear.” Directed by Stephen Cross, this production runs May 6-14 at the Storch Theatre in the Syracuse Stage/SU Drama Complex. The opening night performance is scheduled for Saturday, May 7, at 8 p.m.
Set in Paris in 1900, the play tells the story of life insurance executive Victor Chandebise, who becomes the subject of an elaborate ruse concocted by his wife, Raymonde. She suspects that her husband’s sudden lack of passion in the bedroom signifies that he is cheating on her. Together with the help of her best friend, Lucienne, Raymonde writes Victor an anonymous letter, requesting a meeting at the dubious Frisky Puss Hotel. As is the case with stories of mistaken identity, hilarity ensues as Raymonde, Victor, Lucienne and a host of other characters gather at the establishment, everybody wondering what on Earth is going on.
Cross’ decision to direct this Feydeau masterpiece for the Department of Drama stems from how much fun he had working on a different production of the play years ago. Feydeau farces are known for their zany plots, which unfold at breakneck speed from the moment the curtain goes up and don’t let up until the curtain comes down.
“It requires excellent comedic skills and highly precise physicality,” says Cross. In this production the cast will have to be both actors and acrobats, as they dive their way around the furniture and objects on the set. In fact, it is estimated that, from start to finish, the three-act play contains a total of 274 entrances and exits.
And, yet for all the sidesplitting silliness, Cross feels that Feydeau had a more serious reason for writing such a farcical comedy. “He was writing, I suppose, about his own failed boring bourgeois life, marriage, and so on,” says Cross, “He does not think highly of his class, its follies, and the tragic ennui that makes for lousy fathers and husbands and just possibly sets the moral stage for world wars.” But the hilarious adventure that this play’s characters find themselves on makes for a stupendously memorable night at the theater.
Tickets for “A Flea in Her Ear” are $17 and $19 and are available at the Box Office (315-443-3275) and http://vpa.syr.edu/drama. Student rush tickets (with valid ID) are available for $8 at the Box Office on the day of performance.
Cross is an assistant professor of acting in the Department of Drama. A member of the Actors’ Equity Association, he founded the Irondale Ensemble Project in Canada and serves as its artistic director. While a faculty member at Syracuse University, Cross has directed the Department of Drama’s production of “Lysistrata” during the 2010-2011 season, and, in Syracuse Stage’s 2011 co-production of “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” he played the roles of “Maugrim” and “Rumblebuffin.”
Adapter David Ives was born in Chicago in 1950. He graduated from Northwestern University in 1971 with a degree in English and, in 1984, earned a master of fine arts degree from the Yale School of Drama. In 1995, he was named a Guggenheim Fellow for playwriting. As a playwright, Ives’ works include “All in the Timing,” “Ancient History,” “Don Juan in Chicago,” “The Red Address” and the Tony-winning “Venus in Fur.” He has written several musical adaptations for the Encores! series at New York City’s City Center. Ives has also served as editor for Foreign Affairs magazine and as a contributor to The New Yorker and Spy. In 2006, he wrote a new translation of “A Flea in her Ear” for the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. As an author, Ives’ bibliography includes the young adult novels “The Phobia Clinic” and “Monsieur Eek.”
Feydeau was one of the most influential playwrights of France’s Belle Epoque era in the early 20th century. Born in Paris in 1862, he was fascinated by theater at an early age. He wrote his play “Through the Window” at the age of 20. Feydeau’s first major theatrical success as a playwright happened in 1886, when he was only 24, with “Ladies’ Dressmaker.” Following a two-year hiatus, during which he studied the works of other playwrights who had written farces, Feydeau returned in 1892 with two back-to-back successes, “Monsieur Has Gone Hunting” and “Champignol In Spite of Himself.” His other plays include “Paradise Hotel” (1894), “The Lady from Maxim’s” (1899), and “A Flea in Her Ear” (1907). It is estimated that he wrote as many as 60 plays during his lifetime, many of them farces and the last of which he wrote in 1914. Feydeau later suffered a mental breakdown and ultimately died of syphilis in 1921, at the age of 58.