By Morganne Staring
Mix-ups, misinterpretations, and misguided vexations run wild in East Chapel Hill’s fall production of “A Flea In Her Ear.”
Drama teacher Hope Hynes and technical director Stephen Ellison ran the show, which offered its last performance on Saturday Nov. 13.
The burgeoning befuddlement began with a simple pair of suspenders that Raymonde Chandebise (played by senior Nikki Grinberg) found in the mail. The suspenders instilled a persistent distrust within Raymonde; it was as if she had a flea buzzing in her ear (get it?). She was convinced that her husband, Victor Emmanuel Chandebise, (played by senior Lawrence Campbell), was being unfaithful.
In collusion with her friend, Lucienne Homenides De Histangua (senior Wilmarie Cintron-Muniz), Raymonde schemed to expose Victor and his infidelity. From there, an unfortunate chain of misunderstandings exploded into a series of chases and mad dashes around the rooms of the Frisky Puss Hotel.
The performers adapted to a style never before approached at East: farce.
“One of Ms. Hynes’s main goals is to expose the student body to a wide range of shows over the course of 4 years. She had never done a farce and she had the casting pool for it,” said stage manager Stepheny Hine, senior.
This play was chosen because it was an opportunity to explore a new style, and the actors had to learn to adjust.
“With a lot of guidance from Ms. Hynes, we followed the basic conventions of the style and worked really hard on clear characterization,” said junior Larissa Madden, who played a maid called Antoinette. “It was much harder than other plays I’ve been in because the style seems really simple but the smallest thing can either make a moment in the play really funny or not work at all,” Madden said.
Funny moments were abundant, and throughout the performance, there was suggestive wordplay and blush-inducing dialogue. In the first act it was even proclaimed that “where there’s a willy, there’s a way!” Small moments like these combined with fevered chases built a truly funny play.
“David Ives certainly gave us an amazing script to work with, and one of the beauties of this kind of comedy is the degree at which you play it. If it is overdone it isn’t funny,” Hine said. However, nothing had to be edited out of the script to adapt to a high school version.
“We kept everything from the original script,” senior Cressler Peele said. Peele played Camille, who was Victor’s nephew and worked for Victor at his company. His character had a distinctive speech defect – he couldn’t pronounce consonants.
“Honestly, it wasn’t hard at all for me. I think that only speaking in vowels comes a little easier to me than it does to other people because of my singing experience. In singing you focus on the vowels of the words and not the consonants,” Peele said. The confusion caused by Peele’s baffling speech added to the misunderstandings and madness of the situation, as well as augmenting the hilarity.
Ferallion, ex-colonel and the manager of the Frisky Puss Hotel (played by senior Samaria McKenzie), was also a notably hilarious, zealous character.
“I tried to make my character as ridiculous as possible and I certainly hope the audience enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed playing that character,” McKenzie said. “I’m pretty sure that deep inside me lives a crazy French man.”
Viewers from all corners of the packed auditorium clearly appreciated the humor and responded with enthusiasm. The audience’s positive response drove the actors to keep up their energy.
“One thing that I think really contributes to the overall performance is how much the audience reacts to the actors. When there is more energy coming from the audience there is always more energy coming from the actors,” Peele said.
Pulling off such a chaotic, complex play took an extensive effort from everyone involved, including set and costume designers, techies, and everyone else who worked behind the scenes to help each performance run smoothly.
“The build crew and paint crew especially put in extra hours and we couldn’t have been more grateful,” Hine said. “We could not have done this show without amazing technicians and fortunately we had a lot of new people step up.” Hine herself had her work cut out for her as the stage manager.
“I was in charge of basically everyone. I had to get the actors there on time and keep them on task. I was also in charge of technicians and keeping them on task,” Hine said.
Cooperation certainly facilitated the play’s success. To encourage constructive cooperation, the theater at East has certain guidelines, with one main goal being respect.
“You may not agree with what someone believes, but you must respect them,” Hine said.
According to Madden, drama was saved for the stage, and all involved got along well with one another.
“Everyone in the cast, as well as everyone who did tech, was super nice and talented,” Madden said. “The cast and crew got along really well, which really helped the whole process.” Overall, the general consensus was that the long hours of hard work paid off in the end.
“It was hard work and at times very tedious and stressful but it was all so worth it in the end. The outcome, I believe, was a combination of effort and team work,” McKenzie said.
“I think we performed the play beautifully,” Hine said. “In my opinion our cast and crew did an amazing job and should be extremely happy with their final products. I was so proud.”