Eventide's 'Feiffer's People' Lovingly Skewers Modern Life

By: Ellen Petry Whalen

Topics: Local Theater

A scene from “Feiffer's People” at the Eventide Theatre Company.

Jules Feiffer is one of America’s most celebrated cartoonists. In 1986, the now nonagenarian won a Pulitzer Prize for his satirical work which has spanned the decades, and in 2004 he was inducted into the Comic Book Hall of Fame. In “Feiffer’s People,” first produced in 1968, Eventide Theatre Company comically brings the artist's early cartoon strips to the stage.

The quote “all the world’s a stage” comes to mind as the curtain opens and the cast of six step out onto what appears to be the center ring of a circus. What unfolds are about 30 quick skits and monologues covering topics like truth, love, loneliness, human connection, and beauty. 

The educated urban middle class seems to be the butt of many of the sketches. For example, a woman interviews a boyfriend, quizzing him on his political views. With every question, he replies, “I side with the Supreme Court. It is the law of the land.” Finally fed up, she breaks it off insisting, “I never dreamed he was a radical!”

In another skit, a solitary man is staring at a flower on the street, and a woman asks him what he is doing, and if she can look at the flower with him. He admits that few people have ever stopped to look with him, prompting her to ask why he does it. He logically replies, “How else do you meet people in the city?”

In a monologue, a man describes how he was embarrassed and felt like a loser because he never had any phone messages when he called his answering service. After months of this, he pretended to be a Rockefeller and called his home number, hoping to impress the answering service. The woman taking the message ended up weeping, presumably because she was relieved that he actually had a friend. In an extreme measure, the man’s response was to cancel his phone.

The talented troupe of actors is full of many familiar faces from Eventide’s past shows along with a couple of new ones: Zoanne Allen, Kate Paxton, Jane Taylor, John Williams, Glenn Starner-Tate, and Brendan Cloney. With the understanding that casting on the Cape can be challenging, some of the skits could have been more believable by only pairing the two much younger actors together or the more senior ones, specifically with the love scenes.

Eventide’s long-time director Kay DeFord keeps the pace moving and encourages creative approaches to each character. The actors respond with varied and fun accents, especially the New York ones, while quickly switching into divergent roles. The cast connects with the audience through their ability to be vulnerable, as they handily portray each character’s desperate desire to figure out their place in the world, whether it be connecting through sex, bravado, or friendship.

Judy Chesley’s costumes add to the silliness with her contrasting black-and-white prints that make up each unique outfit. Tristan Divincenzo’s set design is more minimalistic than is usually found at Eventide, with a few sets of painted stage curtains giving the space depth, while seven purple-colored wooden boxes are used creatively for each skit. The playwright specifically gives theaters free rein to imagine the space as they like and to edit or rearrange the material. 

Eventide uses many creative improvisation in an engaging and fast-paced revue style to update Feiffer’s play that could otherwise be considered a bit dated.

Details:

Feiffer’s People” 

At Eventide Theatre Company, 713 Route 6A, Dennis
Through March 3

Information and reservations: 508-398-8588