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University of Iowa News Release

Release: March 28, 2003

"The Flea In Her Ear": Classic French Farce In A New Translation

University Theatres Mainstage will present the classic French farce "The Flea in Her Ear" by Georges Feydeau, April 10-20 in E.C. Mabie Theatre of the University of Iowa Theatre Building. The performances, featuring a new translation by UI faculty director Eric Forsythe, will be at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, April 10-12 and 17-19, and at 3 p.m. Sundays, April 13 and 20.

Feydeau was the unchallenged master of late 19th-century and early 20th-century French farce, and his frantic and romantic "The Flea in Her Ear" -- a whirlwind of mistaken identities, false infidelities and chaotic comic confrontations at a sleazy hotel -- has not only been the most popular of his 39 plays, but has even been called "the funniest play ever written."

"I've wanted to direct 'Flea' for many years, but never could find a translation I really liked," Forsythe says. "I finally took the bull by the horns and did my own. I've been blessed with a highly talented group of people to launch this project: Everyone has helped refine and polish the words of this wonderful, crazy play. Every one of them gets a big Feydeau smooch from me."

His adaptation relocates the action from Paris to turn-of-the-century San Francisco, capitalizing on the rich possibilities of a growing city at the end of the American frontier. Since Feydeau was writing about Paris for Parisians, Forsythe chose to adapt the play for Americans with a similarly familiar locale.

The French colloquialism of a "flea in her ear" is similar in intent to the English expression "a bee in her bonnet." In this play, set decades before the invention of Viagra, the "flea" is a young wife's suspicion that her husband's unaccustomed inability to perform his conjugal duties is evidence of infidelity.

In a scheme worthy of Lucy and Ethel, she persuades her best friend to put him to the test by writing an anonymous note to him, proposing a rendezvous at a hotel notorious for its adulterous trysts -- the Rampant Rooster Hotel and Sporting House.

Of course, the perfumed letter finds its way into the hands of her friend's husband, who recognizes the handwriting. Enraged, he rushes to the hotel with murderous intent. If that was not enough, the hotel porter bears a striking resemblance to the impotent husband.

Of course, confusion multiplies and escalates before the mistaken identities and false suspicions are resolved -- fortunately before any lives are lost.

Tickets to "The Flea in Her Ear" are $16 ($8 for UI students, senior citizens and youth). Tickets may be purchased in advance from the Hancher Auditorium box office. Any remaining tickets for each performance will be available one hour before curtain time at the Theatre Building box office.

Hancher Auditorium box office business hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays. From the local calling area, dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to (319) 353-2284. People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial (319) 335-1158, which is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

Tickets may be ordered on-line 24 hours a day, seven days a week through Hancher's website:

Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction.

For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit To receive UI arts news by e-mail,

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

CONTACT: Winston Barclay, 319-384-0073, To contact translator/director Eric Forsythe,

PHOTOS are available at