Light, farcical comedy with Feydeau's Lady from Maxim's
THE LADY FROM MAXIM'S
Written by Georges Feydeau.
The Huntington Theatre Company.
Starring Greg Mullavey, Lynnda Ferguson,
Jo de Winter, and Humbert Allen Astredo.
At the Boston University Theatre,
May 25 to June 24.
By MICHELLE P. PERRY
"T HE WORST MEETING OF ALL is that between the guilty husband and his suspicious wife, or the suspecting husband and his wife caught in compromising circumstances," says Georges Feydeau. His play, The Lady from Maxim's, is full of meetings between guilty or suspecting husbands and wives, plus uncles, nieces, soldiers, dukes, and household help.
The result is a witty, crazily twisted tale, set in France in the early 1900s. Doctor Lucien Petypon (Greg Mullavey) awakes from an evening of drunken debauchery to find "The Shrimp" (Lynnda Ferguson), a notorious dancer from the Moulin Rouge, in his bed. The Shrimp takes a liking to the doctor's lifestyle and decides to stick around for a while, despite the appearance of the doctor's wife (Jo de Winter). When General Petypon du Grele (Humbert Allen Astredo), Dr. Petypon's Uncle, mistakes The Shrimp for the doctor's wife, Petypon is trapped into bringing The Shrimp to his niece's wedding in the country. The twists and turns which evolve from this basic structure are indescribably complex.
Lynnda Ferguson is delightful as The Shrimp, a tall, curvaceous blonde with "a hard shell and lovely pink center." She swivels her hips around the stage, charming every man and woman in sight, and takes the annoying edge off the endless repetition of her philosophy of life: "Well, what the hell, he's not my father."
Mullavey as Dr. Petypon, and Richard Russell Ramos as his fellow debauchee (not "debaucher," that's the act of debauchery -- peter), Doctor Mongicourt, both play their lines for the laughs. In many other cases, this would be a criticism. However, their style is more than appropriate for the play, which is full of gag lines directed to the audience.
Mme. Petypon is devoutly religious and finds it perfectly believable that a seraphim has appeared to her and told her to await divine impregnation. De Winter plays the role very straight, which is necessary to avoid complete ridicule and is a noticeable contrast to the rest of the actors. Unfortunately, on occasion she does not seem to match the energy of her companions on stage.
Very strong supporting performances are given by Astredo as the irascible Uncle whose mirth equals his great girth; Tony Alyward as Etienne, Petypon's shrewdly observant butler; and James Judy as the Duke de Valmonte, a country bumpkin smitten with The Shrimp.
The realistic sets are attractive, and the lighting effects are appropriately subtle. Costumes are well done, and The Shrimp's several pink frou-frou dresses are particularly lovely.
Maxim's is pure, light, farcical comedy, and pokes fun at everything from provincial life to the medical profession. However, it has nothing of real value to say about life, and certainly will not provoke self-reflection in audience members. It is the marshmallow fluff of theater: seeing it is pleasurable, but real substance will have to be found elsewhere.