April 4, 2002

'Fuddy Meers' onstage at Blue Barn



Staff Writer

As soon as Jill Anderson read David Lindsay-Abaire's "Fuddy Meers," she vowed to be a part of it.  "I saw it in Kevin (Lawler's) office and fell in love with it," she said. "It's kind of in the genre of 'Happy Texas,' with a touch of zaniness. Now I want to read everything (Lindsay-Abaire's) ever done. He's masterful."

Anderson auditioned at the Blue Barn Theater for the part of Claire, a character she said she shares some commonalities with.  "I think we probably share a natural energy," she said. "She's very positive and up; very sunny. Generally I'm that way."

However, Lindsay-Abaire's characters have been heightened for dramatic effect, not to the extent of making them caricatures, but blowing them up to a degree. So, Claire's sunny, cheerful and fresh qualities get transformed into SUPER sunny, cheerful and fresh.  Claire suffers from psychogenic amnesia, a condition that leaves the person a veritable blank slate upon awaking. "She doesn't know whose bed she's in, who her son is - those things are missing to her," Anderson said.

This condition makes life all that more complicated when Claire finds herself kidnapped by a limping, lisping, half-blind, half-deaf man in a ski mask.

"He's a strange character," she said. "He takes her to Claire's mother's house. She has had a stroke, which has made her speech a jumble of words; they are all over the place. What she says doesn't make sense so we have to try to interpret what she knows. That's where the thriller aspect comes in."

It is about this time that another bizarre character comes on stage.  "(The kidnapper's) sidekick is a deranged man with a hand puppet," she said.  It is through this puppet that the dimwitted thug conveys his strange, foul-mouthed thoughts.

"'Fuddy Meers' takes little turns into poignancy," she said. "It goes off the main road to give the play some variety and depth."

Co-starring with Anderson are Aaron Zavitz, Barb Ross, Michelle Zacharia, Lawler, Steve Baisarini and Daniel Dorner.   Anderson has worked with several of the actors before; including Ross and Lawler from a Blue Barn's production of "Tartuffe," however, she's never acted with Dorner, a relative newcomer to the local stage.

"He's a golden boy; a real up-and-comer," she said. "He's a very strong performer, very intelligent, with positive working attitude. He's a delight."

Lawler co-directs with Susan Clement-Toberer.

"It's difficult to act and direct," Anderson said. "It's a serious challenge to split your focus. That's why he needed an assistant. Kevin will ask Susan to step in and guide the production; that's the trick of collaboration - negotiating to find a vision."

Because of the complexity of the material, Anderson said the four-week rehearsal schedule presented creative challenges.

"We had to figure out the logistics - the blocking - and we have a lot of props," she said. "(The play) is a unique animal in terms of pacing. It's very fast and rollercoastery. We spent a lot of time working on the rhythm, getting the pace clipping along. It's remarkable how difficult it was."

The actors also had to contend with learning fight choreography and abnormal speech patterns.  "It's an athletic show for everyone - verbally and mentally," she said. "It takes incredible adroitness. You have to be nimble with it. And as an actor you have to connect with the material and find the reality."

Anderson said audiences, who can see "Fuddy Meers" starting tonight at 7:30, will be surprised about everything in the play.  "It's a world where anything can happen at anytime," she said.

Shows begin at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays. "Fuddy Meers" continues through April 28 at 614 S. 11th St. in Omaha.

Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for students and seniors. For more information, call 345-1576 or go to

Lindsay-Abaire received the Heilpern Award as the most promising dramatist of 1999 and

"Fuddy Meers" was nominated for a number of awards, including the John Gassner Playwrighting Award.