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|Written by||David Lindsay-Abaire|
Fuddy Meers is an American play by David Lindsay-Abaire. It tells the story of an amnesiac, Claire, who awakens each morning as a blank slate on which her husband and teenage son must imprint the facts of her life. One morning Claire is abducted by a limping, lisping man who claims her husband wants to kill her. The audience views the ensuing mayhem through the kaleidoscope of Claire's world. The play culminates in a cacophony of revelations, proving that everything is not what it appears to be.
The play's title "Fuddy Meers" is Gertie's attempt to pronounce the phrase "funny mirrors".
As described in the script of the play:
- Claire – about forty, a generally sunny woman with amnesia.
- Richard – about forty, a chatty, friendly, sometimes nervous man.
- Kenny – seventeen, a troubled teen.
- Limping Man – about forty, lisping, limping, half-blind, half-deaf man with secrets unknown to anyone else.
- Gertie – sixties, a clear-headed lady who's had a stroke and can't speak properly.
- Millet – thirties or forties, an odd man with a puppet.
- Heidi – thirties or forties, a tough woman in uniform.
Claire awakens one morning to discover that she is married to a hospital worker named Richard and has a son, Kenny, who has an attitude problem. She learns she has a "psychogenic" form of amnesia, and Richard gives her a book he prepared about her life after re-explaining everything so many times. Everything is as it seems until Zach, or "Limping Man" as he is referred to in the script, appears from under the bed. He claims he is there to rescue Claire and that Richard wants to kill her.
Zach, who 'reveals' he is Claire's brother, takes her to their mother Gertie's house. Gertie is not fond of Zach but cannot say why because of her aphasia. While there, Claire meets Millet, a kind man with an apparent mental disability and a bad-mouthed puppet. It is revealed that Millet and Zach have escaped from prison, although why they were brought to prison remains a mystery.
Meanwhile, Richard takes Kenny to search for Claire. He is pulled over by Heidi and takes her gun, bringing her with him and Kenny as they travel to Gertie's house. But in the meantime Millet – through his puppet – has told Claire about how her husband used to beat her, and she wants nothing to do with Richard. She has also found out that the real Zach, her brother, is dead. As Richard, Kenny and Heidi are entering the house, Claire does not know whom to trust. Gertie takes advantage of the opportunity and stabs Limping Man.
In the ensuing chaos, Kenny is shot in the arm with Heidi's gun and a flurry of revelations come forth. Limping Man is in fact Phil, Claire's abusive ex-husband, while Richard is her new husband. Richard has a criminal past and had framed Millet for stealing an expensive ring. Heidi meanwhile turns out to be a prison cook who met Phil during his time in prison. Claire's world (as well as that of the audience) becomes increasingly clear with each new revelation as she regains more and more of her memory and realizes she is responsible for Limping Man's deformities.
Ultimately, Limping Man's plans are foiled by his love for Claire. We find that Heidi was posing as a police officer to stop Richard and Kenny from reaching Claire, but when Limping Man professes his love for Claire, Heidi turns her back on him. Millet leaves to clear his name, Heidi and Limping Man presumably go to jail, Gertie is safe, and Richard, Kenny and Claire leave in Richard's car. The final act reveals yet another twist.
As Claire talks about updating her memory book, Kenny's negative attitude towards Richard becomes more understandable when the true nature of Claire and Richard's relationship is revealed. Kenny tells of how Richard worked at the hospital where Claire was staying and proposed to her on a daily basis, taking advantage of her memory loss. Apparently, in his attempt to reform his criminal past, he was desperate for companionship; however, all that matters for Claire is that the trio are a family now.
Lindsay-Abaire's first play, Fuddy Meers, debuted at the Manhattan Theatre Club in 1999 in an acclaimed production directed by David Petrarca to a sold-out audience and mostly positive critical reactions, with the New York Times, New York Magazine and Variety among its proponents. However, while critics were pleased with the humorous content, it was accused of relying too heavily on coincidences and leaving too many "loose ends". Despite this, some critics, such as a reviewer for the New York Observer, went so far as to proclaim Lindsay-Abaire a "comic genius"; five years after its debut, it had been produced at over 200 venues across the United States. It also earned several awards during this initial run, including the John Gassner Playwrighting Award, and Lindsay-Abaire received a Heilpern Award for Most Promising Dramatist in 1999.
Reactions were mixed when Sam Mendes launched his flagship production company, Scamp, with the first British production of the play. One review in The Guardian pointed to Arsenic and Old Lace and You Can't Take It with You as examples that Americans (in his opinion) had a tradition of works "in which wackiness was a sign of liberating individualism", but that "...it means little to us here." The play also debuted in a traditionally-weak theatre season for London's West End and it closed after only three weeks^ . Though Fuddy Meers was later produced elsewhere in the UK, it never saw the same success it had seen in North America.