A FLEA IN HER EAR by Georges Feydeau, directed by Laszlo Marton, with Colombe Demers, Diego Matamoros, Tom McCamus, Tony Nardi, Stephen Ouimette, Liisa Repo-Martell, Cliff Saunders and Jim Warren. Presented by Soulpepper and Mirvish Productions at the Elgin Theatre (189 Yonge). Runs to April 8, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday 2 pm. $35-$65. 416-872-1212. Rating: NNN Rating: NNNNN
attending opening night at a Flea In Her Ear was like eating the wares at a famous patisserie too soon -- the smells and the samples were delicious, but the luscious mocha torte that drew you in needed some baking.
That's not surprising, given the ensemble care that's required to perform Feydeau's classic farce. Although Soulpepper Theatre has gathered a group with shining credentials, it takes some time playing to an audience to get the rhythms and mesh the play's gears smoothly so that the whole is more than a collection of funny bits.
The humorous segments are certainly there in this increasingly convoluted tale of a wife (Liisa Repo-Martell) who, believing her husband (Diego Matamoros) is unfaithful to her, enlists the aid of another man's wife (Colombe Demers) to find out the truth. Conniving servants, jealous husbands, simple porters and would-be suitors wind the tale up further. Just about everyone plays around sexually -- or wants to.
Director Laszlo Marton includes a musician in a side box tinkling at an upright piano and sometimes -- unnecessarily -- sends characters running around the stage in a silent-film-style chase or dancing the cancan. Other than those problematic distractions, some actors have to settle comfortably into their roles and get up to full speed. No question they'll get there.
Standouts are Matamoros in the dual role of the suspected husband and a brothel porter with a drinking problem, Tom McCamus as a snakelike seducer with matinee-idol charm, and Stephen Ouimette as a seeming virgin who gets lots of politically incorrect laughter out of a speech impediment. Matching them are Cliff Saunders's lusty German sailor, Tony Nardi as a Spaniard with a volcanic temper and Demers as his equally fiery wife, though she begins as an elegant Ethel to Repo-Martell's plotting Lucy.