FUDDY MEERS, Strawdog Theatre Company. All the characters in David Lindsay-Abaire's comedy are loopy, whether a little or a lot. Severe trauma has left Claire with a fresh case of amnesia every morning: she absorbs information and has flashes of memory, but everything is forgotten the next day. Claire's mother has a speech impediment because of a stroke. But more often a character's craziness is explained not by a medical condition but the disappointments of life. What gives this bizarre dark comedy its edge is the characters' underlying sense of sadness and frustration.
Director Kimberly Senior and her cast don't always capture the script's chaotic silliness--scenes of mayhem demand more coherent coordination. But the performers do ground the off-kilter action in nuanced, sharply comic characterizations. When Jennifer Avery's buoyant Claire gets kidnapped by a limping, lisping man in a ski mask, she struggles to maintain her sunny disposition despite the others' oddball antics. The actors are so convincing as the complications pile up and the absurdity burgeons that we too become pleasantly befuddled. And the show's fine design team sometimes suggests we're inside Claire's murky mind, which proves an intriguing, entertaining place to be.