NEW PALTZ -- If Viagra had existed in the early 20th-century, Georges Feydeau might never have written "A Flea in Her Ear." But in a new production by the Department of Theatre Arts, opening March 10 and running through March 20, 2005, the lead character's sexual malfunction and a giant revolving bed simply add more layers of merriment to the classic French farce.
Feydeau's "A Flea in Her Ear" is a masterpiece of mistaken identities, slamming doors and sexual innuendo where no one is safe from becoming the brunt of a joke. Spouses, servants and staff collide in the hallways and bedrooms of a hotel in which amorous interludes are the order of the day. Written in 1908, it was a crowning achievement of Feydeau's career and a prime example of the theatrical form of farce.
As the play begins, Madame Chandebise begins to doubt the fidelity of her husband, Victor Emmanuel, who suddenly has become sexually inactive, or, as Mme. Chandebise puts it, "after having been a husband-and what a husband! -suddenly stopped- like that! Between one day and the next." She does not realize, however, that his behavior is due to a nervous condition, and she begins to suspect that he has a mistress. With the help of an old friend, the jealous young wife forges a passionate lover's note designed to trap her husband in a compromised position. But in the brilliant logic that underlies all great farces, this note embarks on a misdirected journey that inevitably sends a thunderous crowd of guilty and jealous lovers to an infamous Paris hotel. It is a marvelous romp through marital mayhem.
In his inaugural production at SUNY New Paltz, Director Paul Kassel-who joined the faculty of the Department of Theatre Arts in Fall 2004-finds depth and relevance in the play for audiences today. "Comedy is hard because it is born out of the pain of living, out of anger fear, and sadness. What's funny about this play for me is that, just like in life, people assume roles they wish to play and go to crazy lengths to keep playing them."
Feydeau was a prolific writer, penning 34 plays in his lifetime, all of them farces. One of Feydeau's trademarks is his intricate choreography of character entrances and exits. As he is said to have quipped, "when two of my characters should under no circumstances encounter one another, I throw them together as quickly as possible.
The SUNY New Paltz production of " A Flea in Her Ear" is performed in Parker Theatre. Evening performances begin at 8pm on March 10, 11, 12, 17, 18, and 19. Two matinee performances beginning at 2 pm are planned for March 13 and 20. Parker Theatre is wheelchair accessible and equipped with assisted listening systems.
Tickets are $16 general admission, and $14 senior citizens, students, and SUNY staff. They are available online at www.newpaltz.edu/theatre or by calling (845) 257-3880.
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