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Stage Review

Wild guests animate Wellfleet's 'Fabuloso'

Joseph Fuqua and Winslow Corbett in Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater's ''Fabuloso.'' Joseph Fuqua and Winslow Corbett in Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater's ''Fabuloso.'' (JIM DALGLISH)
By Sandy MacDonald
Globe Correspondent / August 22, 2008
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WELLFLEET - What would we do without the oversize personalities of the world - the Auntie Mames (of either sex) who shake things up and stir the blood?

In "Fabuloso," John Kolvenbach's new play premiering at Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater, that role is filled by an irrepressible eternal boy named Arthur (the bouncy Joseph Fuqua), a former childhood friend who descends upon a stagnantly married urban couple - bank-drone Kate and glum soccer coach Teddy - and restores their joie de vivre.

The proposed visit doesn't sound promising. The initial impulse of Teddy (Ramsey Faragallah), when he receives a phone call out of the blue after a decade-long separation, is to barricade the door. When Kate (Elizabeth Atkeson), who tends to browbeat her passive, depressive husband, announces that it's after 3 a.m. so the visit must be off, it's a safe bet that the next thing we will hear is a knock - in fact, an escalating, ever more desperate series of knocks.

The surprise is that the knocks don't end once Arthur gains admittance. His fiancee, Samantha (the adorably loopy Winslow Corbett), is hot on his heels. As Arthur babbles nervously about a nonviolence contract while insistently arming his hosts with knives from their own kitchen, Samantha threatens mayhem over his latest transgression: hiring actors to feign a familial engagement party.

It turns out to be not that heartless a ploy, seeing - as Teddy explains - that Arthur has no real family: Teddy became it when, at age 13, Arthur left behind an alcoholic widower father and appointed himself Teddy's virtual brother. The next five years were the happiest of his life - so happy that Arthur is now determined to re-create the idyll, the obligations and ordinary strictures of adulthood be damned.

When not playing a comic variation on Frankie and Johnny, Samantha and Arthur act more like Dr. Seuss's Thing One and Thing Two, the impish cohorts of "The Cat in the Hat." Mischief - on a grand scale - is their middle name. First Arthur, a trustifarian, blows $200 on a cab ride out to a farm to secure Teddy the means of settling a score with a rabid soccer dad. Brilliant plan, bungled execution ("Over to you," Arthur repeatedly demurs, indicating Teddy, as Kate's interrogation discloses the scheme's underlying flaws).

Other favored Arthurian antics: picnicking in bed, playing dead (while muttering instructions to douse him with water), and choreographing a group dance number to the 1920s vaudeville song "Oh! How She Lied to Me." Don't you wish your own home invaders - sorry, houseguests - were half as inventive?

But, as Kate points out, "It stops being a slumber party when you stay for a month." It's a tough assignment for an actor, playing sobersided grownup opposite this crazy-fun couple. As the more dominant of the designated downers, Atkeson holds up better: She has somewhere to go, from bossy to bemusedly enabling. Faragallah has the harder course. How charming can you be, when chronically depressed? He's also charged with delivering, sometimes in a droning song, Kolvenbach's more egregiously writerly passages.

As director, Kolvenbach keeps the choppily episodic momentum moving along merrily. As scenarist, he might want to trim the sitcommish intro and retool some of Teddy's portentous declarations. Kolvenbach is most adept at the tossed-off observation, the out-of-left-field one-liner - a skill he lavishes on his pair of endearingly offbeat interlopers.

Fabuloso

Play by John Kolvenbach

Directed by: Kolvenbach. Set, Dustin O'Neill. Lights, John Malinowski. Costumes, Carol Sherry.

At Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater, Julie Harris Stage, Wellfleet, through Sept. 6. Tickets: $32. 508-349-9428, www.what.org

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