Diego double-deals

Rating: NNNNN A FLEA IN HER EAR A FLEA IN HER EAR A FLEA IN HER EAR by Georges Feydeau, directed.


Rating: NNNNN

A FLEA IN HER EAR

A FLEA IN HER EAR

A FLEA IN HER EAR

by Georges Feydeau, directed by Laszlo Marton, with Diego Matamoros, Colombe Demers, Tom McCamus, Tony Nardi, Stephen Ouimette, Liisa Repo-Martell, Maria Vacratsis and Jim Warren. Presented by Soulpepper Theatre and David and Ed Mirvish at the Elgin Theatre (189 Yonge). Previews begin Friday (February 23), opens Tuesday (February 27) and runs to April 8, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday 2 pm. $35-$65. 416-872-1212.
it’s all in the timing. i have to meet Diego Matamoros at 1:30 pm. Precisely. He’s got exactly one hour for lunch.

And timing is everything in his upcoming show, A Flea In Her Ear.

Flea, a turn-of-the-century farce by French master Georges Feydeau, succeeds only if its 14 cast members work like perfectly intermeshing gears to drive the play’s laughter.

Built on mistaken identities, amorous indiscretions and characters with various emotional tics, Flea starts with a wife’s testing her husband’s fidelity. It quickly escalates into a multiple-door romp through a Paris hotel/brothel, complete with revolving beds and most of the play’s figures running around in flagrante.

Matamoros does double duty as suspected husband Chandebise and hotel porter Poche, who happens to be his look-alike.

A founding member and associate artistic director of Soulpepper, Matamoros has proven his versatility in seven company roles ranging from the drunken Triletsky in Platonov — which earned him one of his several Doras — to the urbane, plotting Turai in The Play’s The Thing and the codependent Clov in Endgame.

His last Soulpepper role, the emotionally strait-jacketed Robert in Pinter’s Betrayal, seems to come from a different universe than his two manic Feydeau roles.

“The Pinter kept me quiet working with nuanced subtext,” Matamoros says as we tuck into a corner booth at a Victoria Street diner. “Flea is all fireworks and no subtext at all. There’s no room, or time, for psychological investigation or ambiguity. All the characters have to be recognizable types.”

Matamoros plays with his omelette, unaware that the women at the next table have stopped their conversation to eavesdrop on ours. He’s caught their attention with his animation and intelligence.

Pointing out that both Chekhov and Ionesco learned from Feydeau, the actor credits Hungarian director Laszlo Marton — a regular Soulpepper guest — with providing necessary structure for Flea, which numbers in its cast such excellent comic performers as Stephen Ouimette, Maria Vacratsis, Tom McCamus and Jim Warren.

The coordination of their action is something of a circus act, like having multiple balls spinning in the air as long as possible.

“The director has to have an incredibly accurate idea of where the audience’s attention is for every second of the play. If the penny doesn’t drop at the right moment, you risk losing one of the plot threads.

“The characters must always believe the nightmare they’re in is real, for nothing is funnier than the unhappiness of “Why is this happening to me?'”

The actor suddenly flashes the distraught look of a man caught in a revolving door he can’t escape.

“That’s when all the misunderstandings become hysterical.” *

jonkap@nowtoronto.com

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