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Fuddy Business

Play 'funny, with some bite'
by: photo by Dick Trtek, Cynthia Smith-English tangles with Travis Nodurft, trying to 
prevent him from making a phone call, in a scene from “Fuddy Mears.”

Audiences will like 'Fuddy Mears,' the second offering from Clackamas Repertory Theatre that opens on Aug. 3, because the play is 'funny, with some bite,' said Cynthia Smith-English.

'It's about families, difficult relationships, manipulation. The play has been described as 'zany, wicked fun,'' she added, noting that it does contain 'adult language.'

And Smith-English is in a unique position to comment on the play, as she has a role in it, is the artistic director of the entire company, and her husband, David Smith-English, is the managing director of the company and the director of 'Fuddy Mears.'

'I play a character who has had a stroke and can't speak intelligibly; nothing is wrong with my mind, I just can't speak normally,' Cynthia Smith-English said.

The playwright, David Lindsay-Abaire, created a whole new language for her character to speak, Smith-English noted.

'It wasn't as hard to learn as I thought it would be,' she said, adding that some of the language 'duplicates real words, but not quite.'

During the course of the play, Gertie, Smith-English's character, tries to explain a photograph to her daughter, and tells her the photo took place in a fun house, a place with 'fuddy mears.'

'She's trying to say funny mirrors,' Smith-English said.

Her daughter, Claire, played by Amanda Jensen, has a rare form of amnesia.

'She wakes up every day and forgets - she has to start all over again. She can't remember people, places - she can't remember anything of her past,' Smith-English explained.

The play follows Claire 'for a whole day in her life' as she interacts with members of her family.

'She finds out who all these pretty crazy people are,' and meanwhile her husband and son are wondering if tomorrow is the day she will wake up and remember them, Smith-English added.

'Basically she's forgotten these traumatic things in her life, and she hears about them. And there are people [from her past] who try and take advantage of her,' Smith-English noted.

Jensen said Claire has presented a challenge, as usually she does background work on her roles, but 'whatever I do doesn't matter, as my character starts over every day. She's like a clean slate.'

She described her part as a 'meaty role,' and added, that her character 'knows nothing at the beginning of the day, and everything at the end of the day.'

'Fuddy Mears' is a play that is popular with actors, Smith-English noted.

John Renner plays Richard, Claire's husband with a bit of a 'murky past,' Smith-English said.

Claire's 'dope-smoking' son, Kenny, is played by Bob Alsman.

'He just wants his mother back - and he experiences a bit of redemption,' Smith-English explained.

Other characters include Limping Man, a 'half-blind, half-deaf, lisping limping man,' played by Jayson Shanafelt; Heidi, a mysterious woman who may be a cop, played by Jayne Stevens and Millet, a character with a puppet, played by Travis Nodurft.

'The puppet reveals things he shouldn't - he reveals secrets,' Smith-English added.

Claire is at the heart of the play, and for a woman with a rare form of amnesia, Smith-English described her as being 'really resourceful and upbeat. She takes things that would be taken negatively and gives them a positive spin.

'She cheerfully tries to deal with all these things she's learning. She's the straight person in the show, and playing the straight person in a comedy is a hard job. It seems clear to me that she has chosen to have this amnesia. She doesn't have to make any decisions - she's totally in the moment,' Smith-English noted.

She added, 'I hope [audience members] have a good time - some things about family dynamics might ring true.'