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A Flea in Her Ear


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AT: Caught in the Act! A: Georges Feydeau Pf: 1907, Paris Pb: 1909 Tr: 1966 G: Farce in 3 acts; French prose S: The Chandebises' drawing room, Paris, and a hotel in the suburbs, 1900s C: 10m, 5f, extrasVictor Emmanuel Chandebise manages the Paris office of an international insurance company. His wife Raymonde has a ‘flea in her ear’ because she is convinced that he is unfaithful. She engages her friend Lucienne to expose him by writing him a love letter inviting him to an assignation at a hotel. Chandebise, who is suffering from impotence, can only imagine that the letter is intended for his better-looking friend Tournel, and sends him off to the hotel. When Lucienne's violently jealous Latin American husband recognizes her handwriting, Chandebise rushes off to stop Tournel from going. Raymonde duly appears at the hotel to be welcomed by the astonished Tournel, who is in love with her. Eventually all the characters arrive at the hotel, which becomes the scene of complete mayhem: because they look identical, the hotel porter is mistaken for Chandebise, a revolving bed makes people instantaneously appear and disappear, Chandebise's nephew Camille loses the plate that corrects his cleft palate and becomes unintelligible, and a lecherous Englishman tries to seduce any woman who comes near him. The following day at home, Raymonde and Lucienne wait terrified for their husbands' return, and are further confused when the hotel porter arrives, whom they still imagine to be Chandebise. Eventually all is explained, and Chandebise promises to squash the flea in his beloved wife's ear that very night.

AT: Caught in the Act! A: Georges Feydeau Pf: 1907, Paris Pb: 1909 Tr: 1966 G: Farce in 3 acts; French prose S: The Chandebises' drawing room, Paris, and a hotel in the suburbs, 1900s C: 10m, 5f, extras

This is one of the best known of Feydeau's more than 50 ‘boulevard farces’, especially to English-speaking audiences through John Mortimer's sparkling translation (1966). Feydeau's manipulation of the plot is fast-paced and hilarious, the mad confusions of the hotel scenes ranking as some of the funniest in world theatre. Beneath the farce lies a tender love story of a wife who mistakes her husband's impotence for infidelity and unknowingly helps him towards recovery.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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