Sopris Theatre Company wraps up season with classic French farce

Jessica Cabe
Sopris Theatre Company actors Cassidy Willey
Scot Gerdes |

If You Go...

Who: Sopris Theatre Company

What: ‘A Flea in her Ear’

When: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and April 16-18, and 2 p.m. Sunday and April 19

Where: New Space Theatre at Colorado Mountain College in Glenwood Springs-Spring Valley

How Much: $15 for adults and $10 for seniors, students and CMC faculty and staff

Spring is in the air, and that means a little bedroom humor from Sopris Theatre Company.

The collection of Colorado Mountain College students and community members will present “A Flea in her Ear,” the pinnacle of the French farce, this weekend and next in the New Space Theatre at the Spring Valley campus.

Gary Ketzenbarger, artistic director for Sopris Theatre Company, said the show was chosen to close out the season to keep audiences wanting more next fall.

“There’s kind of an art to choosing the season, and springtime doesn’t mean it has to be a comedy, but it does mean you need to leave them with something where they want to come back in the fall and see what’s next,” he said. “And in springtime, people are in a springtime mood. So this time of year is the perfect time for a play like this. We’re going to leave them laughing.”

“A Flea in her Ear” tells the story of Raymonde, a woman who believes her husband is having an affair after his libido abruptly wanes. The truth is that her husband, Victor, has just been stressed recently. But instead of confronting him directly, Raymonde and her best friend, Lucienne, hatch a plan to catch Victor in the act. They write him a steamy letter from an anonymous admirer who invites him to meet her at a less than savory hotel.

As this is happening, countless other misunderstandings and miscommunications send the entire cast of characters into a mad frenzy of confusion.

“A lot of the humor comes from the confusion of the characters,” said Ciara Morrison, who plays the hotel maid Eugenie. “The audience gets to see what’s going on, and the characters are blind. They’re in the dark to what’s happening in their own lives.”

“It’s just wild and crazy — doors slamming, miscommunication, entrances and exits,” said Cassidy Willey, who plays Raymonde.

Ketzenbarger said farces are deceptively difficult to pull off because of the fast pace and the timing of the entrances and exits.

“It sounds kind of contradictory, but farce is one of the very hardest things to perform,” he said. “The precision it takes, the timing it takes, it’s a real challenge. If you don’t have that finesse and that control, it really doesn’t work well. It’s got to be almost surgical in its timing and its precision, but when it works, it’s a joy.”

As always, in addition to entertaining audiences, Ketzenbarger has to think of providing quality educational experiences for his student cast members when choosing the season.

“We always try to do a balance of different kinds of theater for educational purposes,” he said. “But also since we function as a community theater as well, I like to keep people guessing.”

Paige Ulmer, who plays Lucienne, said this will be her last Sopris Theatre Company production as a student, as she’s graduating after this semester, and it’s her biggest role in a play yet.

“It’s not my first play, but it’s my first major role in a play versus a musical,” Ulmer said. “So I was really fortunate and blessed that [director Brad Moore] gave me this opportunity. My biggest challenge is that it’s so different from musicals. Musicals are so much easier for me, where I learn a lot of the dialogue through just singing. This time around, I’ve been sleeping with the script.”

This is the first play for Kari Sea, who plays Olympe, the wife of the hotel owner. Sea is a classical ballerina, but she’s found a new vulnerability in acting.

“You become so vulnerable because you don’t have music, and you don’t have what you’re always used to,” she said. “This is the first time I’ve gotten to work with the theater department, and so I feel like a newbie. But the cast is so talented and so amazing.”

Ketzenbarger said comedy more than almost any other genre succeeds or fails based on the audience’s reaction. All the actors can do is work on mastering all the elements of the classic French farce and cross their fingers.

“Farce is a number of things: It’s madcap, the pace is hard-driving, it sometimes verges on elements of violence, it can be highly aggressive, it also can be highly sexual, a lot of bawdiness goes on in farce,” he said. “So on many levels, it’s very delightful. But it’s hard to do.”

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.