- A Flea in Her Ear
"A Flea in Her Ear" ( _fr. La Puce à l'oreille) is a 1907 play by
Georges Feydeauwritten at the height of the Belle Époque.
It is Paris at the turn of the century, and the lovely Raymonde Chandebise, after years of wedded bliss, begins to doubt the fidelity of her husband, Victor Emmanuel, who suddenly has become sexually inactive, or, as Raymonde puts it, “after having been a husband--and what a husband!--suddenly stopped--like that! Between one day and the next.” She does not realize, however, that his behavior is due to a nervous condition, and she begins to suspect that he has a mistress.She confides her doubts to her old friend Lucienne, who suggests a little trick to test him. They write him a letter, in Lucienne’s handwriting, from a fictitious and anonymous admirer, requesting a rendezvous at the Hotel Coq d’Or, an establishment with a dubious reputation, but a large and prominent clientele. It is Raymonde’s intention to confront her husband there, and she and Lucienne leave to do so.When Victor Emmanuel receives the letter, however, he has no interest in such an affair and believes the invitation from the mysterious woman was meant for his best friend Tournel, a handsome bachelor who, unknown to Victor Emmanuel, has his eye on Raymonde. Tournel, hot blooded and easily excited, quickly exits to make the appointment.Meanwhile, Camille, the young nephew of Victor Emmanuel, is overjoyed to have a speech impediment corrected by a new silver palate from Dr. Finache. In celebration, he and the household cook, Antoinette, also hurry to the Hotel Coq d’Or, followed by Etienne, the jealous husband of Antoinette. Dr. Finache, also looking for a bit of fun, decides to go to the hotel in search of his own afternoon rendezvous.To complicate the matter further, Victor Emmanuel, with the intention of sharing his amusement, shows the letter to Lucienne’s husband, Carlos Homenides de Histangua, a passionate and violent Spaniard. Carlos recognizes Lucienne’s handwriting and assumes that she is trying to start an affair with Victor Emmanuel. He runs off to the hotel vowing to kill her in revenge. Victor Emmanuel, hoping to prevent the threatened murder, hurries off in pursuit.Feraillon, the proprietor of the Hotel Coq d’Or, runs his business with a military precision, which, alas, is about to be disrupted. Finache arrives looking for fun. Raymonde arrives looking for Victor Emmanuel. Tournel arrives looking for Raymonde. Camille arrives with Antoinette, followed by Etienne, who is looking for them both. Carlos arrives looking for Lucienne; and Victor Emmanuel, the most innocent of the entire group, arrives looking to stop Carlos.The presence of all the people at the hotel causes further complications and misunderstandings. Carlos, attempting to shoot his wife, violently shoots at anything that moves. Victor Emmanuel sees Raymonde talking with Tournel and believes she is unfaithful. Mistaken for Poche, an alcoholic porter at the hotel, Victor Emmanuel is believed to be insane. And, to escalate the action even further, Camille loses his palate and Tournel tries incessantly to seduce Raymonde.The confusion persists even after all are reunited again at Victor Emmanuel’s house. However, things begin to clear up when Carlo discovers on Raymonde’s desk a rough copy of the letter written by Lucienne, this one in Raymonde’s handwriting. Next the owner of the hotel comes by to return an article left behind by a member of the household and clears up the confusion between his porter and Victor Emmanuel. Finally, Raymonde tells Victor Emmanuel the cause of her suspicions, and he assures her that he will put an end to her doubts--tonight.
CHARACTERS(in order of importance)
VICTOR EMMANUEL CHANDEBISE- The faithful husband to Raymonde. He is having problems which leads Raymonde to believe he is cheating on him. He looks remarkably like Poche.RAYMONDE CHANDEBISE- Believe her husband VE Chandebise is cheating when she in fact is having an affair with Romain Tournel. Her best friend is Lucienne.
POCHE- A drunken porter of the Hotel Coq d'Or. He looks exactly like VE Chandebise and the two are often confused. He is played by the same actor as Chandebise.
LUCIENNE HOMENIDES DE HISTANGUA- Best friend of Raymonde, Husband of Carlos. She introduces Raymonde to the plot to incriminate her husband.DON CARLOS HOMENIDES DE HISTANGUA- A client of Chandebise and an extremely jealous husband. He carries guns regularly and is not afraid to use them.
ROMAIN TOURNEL-The best friend and business partner of Chandebise, and lover of Raymonde. Chandebise sends him to the Hotel Coq d'Or where he is delighted to find, Raymonde.DR. FINACHE- The doctor for the Life Insurance Co. that Chandebise and Tournel work for. He is a personal friend of both Chandebise and Cammile. He helps both of them with their issues, and is a frequent patron of the Hotel Coq d'Or.ETIENNE- The nosy butler of Chandebise. Married to Antionette.CAMMILE- Nephew to Chandebise. His speech impediment leads people to lose their patience with him. He does receive help for his impediment from Finache, but promtly looses the palate at the Hotel.FERRAILLON- The militarous proprietor of the Hotel Coq d'Or. The nephew of Baptistin and husband of Olympe.
OLYMPE- Ex prostitute/wife of Ferraillon.ANTIONETTE- The cook in the Chandebise home. She is married to Etienne, but is having an affair with Camiile.
EUGENIE- a maid in the hotel, may or may not be fooling around with Poche.BAPTISTIN- Ferraillon's drunken uncle who he employs.SHWARZ- A creepy German customer at the hotel. He attempts to seduce Lucienne and Antionette.
Adaptions and performance history
BBCbroadcast a production of the play on 7 June 1967. It marked the television debut of Anthony Hopkins, playing Étienne Plucheux.
John Mortimer then wrote the
screenplayfor a 1968 20th Century Fox feature filmalso directed by Jacques Charon. The cast included Rex Harrison, Rosemary Harris, Louis Jourdan, and Rachel Roberts.
John Mortimertranslated the play for the National Theatre, opening at the Old Vicin 1966. It was directed by Jacques Charonand starred Albert Finneyand Geraldine McEwan.
An English language translation by Barnett Shaw had a brief Broadway run at the ANTA Playhouse in 1969. It was directed by
Gower Championand starred Robert Gerringerand Ruth Kobart. An adaptation by Jean-Marie Besset and Mark O'Donnell was staged by the Roundabout Theatre Companyin New York Cityin 1998. Directed by Bill Irwin, it opened on 5 March and ran for 77 performances. The cast included Mark Linn-Baker, Alice Playten, and Richard B. Shull.
* [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0061677/ 1967 BBC production at IMDb]
* [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0062978/ 1968 film at IMDb]
* [http://www.ibdb.com/production.asp?ID=3458 1969 Broadway production at IBDb]
* [http://www.jdp.co.yu/plays/fleainherear.html 1971 Jugoslovensko Dramsko Pozoriste (JDP), Belgrade, Serbia] - performed more than 1200 times up till today
* [http://www.lortel.org/LLA_archive/index.cfm?search_by=show&title=A%20Flea%20in%20Her%20Ear 1998 off-Broadway production at Lortel Archives]
* [http://nymag.com/nymetro/arts/theater/reviews/2357/ 1998 "New York Magazine" review]
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