"It is a black comedy," explains director and (Mostly) Harmless founder Robert Neblett. "You find yourself laughing at things that are completely inappropriate. You should not be laughing at a stroke victim's slurred speech. You should not be laughing at a man who was sexually abused as a child and the only way he can deal with it is to create an alter ego from a hand puppet [he laughs]."
Fuddy, written by young playwright David Lindsay-Abaire, recently closed a highly successful New York run. The premiere performances, two years ago, featured Mark McKinney of the comedy troupe Kids in the Hall as Millet, a mentally addled ex-con who talks mostly to his horny puppet, Hinky-Binky.
The protagonist of the comedy is Claire, an amnesiac who rises each day not knowing who or where she is. A man who says he's her husband begins the task of reintroducing her to her own life for the umpteenth time. Just as she and we in the audience are beginning to understand her situation, she is kidnapped by a limping, lisping ski-mask-wearing man who claims he is her brother and that everything she has just been told is a lie. Or is it?
The play has plenty of physical and verbal comedy and may bring to mind film comedies like A Fish Called Wanda (a speech impediment played for laughs) or There's Something About Mary (mental illness played for laughs). Neblett likens Fuddy to plays written by Christopher Durang (Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You), Nicky Silver (Pterodactyls) and David Ives (All in the Timing).
It may also remind you of a good routine by a standup comedian, because the laughter is loud and does not stop for long. "It doesn't have anything really huge to say about the world. It doesn't have any grand, sweeping moral statements or philosophical quandaries," says Neblett. "It's just a funny play." In fact, the play's only flirtation with serious content comes near the end and is promptly ended when one character smacks another upside the head with a shovel.
Because Claire, with the audience, is kept in the dark about who she is and why she's been kidnapped, the sense of wanting to get to the bottom of the mystery pushes the action along nicely. "It's a little bit like an Agatha Christie [play], says Neblett, "where you don't know who to trust from scene to scene."
The play's title is a play on the phrase "funny mirrors," spoken by a character who's suffered a stroke. The unusual title has occasioned some strange moments, Neblett says: "Someone called the other day asking for tickets to Fruity Meyers."