David Lindsay-Abaire has only just emerged as a talented playwright, and Hollywood has already snatched him up. No wonder: Lindsay-Abaire's plays are galloping adventures, madcap comedies with a dash of poignancy near the end to make you feel that it's all been worthwhile.

At least that's how it goes in "Fuddy Meers," the recent off-Broadway hit that was Lindsay-Abaire's breakout play. And that's how it went in his "Wonder of the World" last season at Woolly Mammoth, which opened its own wacky staging of "Fuddy Meers" last weekend at the Kennedy Center's AFI Theater. Both comedies are catapulted headlong by marital discord that leads to road trips and encounters with strange characters. In both scripts, Lindsay-Abaire seems to be flying by the seat of his pants, yet things ultimately snap together with a machinelike click, as if the loopy plots had been engineered from a careful blueprint.

"Fuddy Meers" is basically a story about Claire, a woman with a rare form of amnesia in which her memory is erased each night while she sleeps. Her husband, Richard, has compiled a reference book of her life so he won't have to explain her world from scratch every day. Richard seems kind -- but then a masked figure with a limp and a lisp pops out from under Claire's bed claiming to be her brother, and he tells her that Richard is actually very, very bad, and that she must escape with him right away.

So they flee to the country house belonging to Gertie, Claire's mother. (Gertie's picture-perfect kitchen is revealed behind one of set designer Tony Cisek's sliding panels, which help shift the scenes back and forth from Claire's place to the highway to Gertie's kitchen and basement -- a lot of locales for the relatively small AFI stage). Gertie has had a stroke, and her speech is tough to decipher. In the course of explaining some of poor befuddled Claire's history, Gertie says, "fuddy meers," and she means "fun house mirrors."

Lindsay-Abaire is indeed constructing a fun house. Claire's view of her own life is crazily distorted, but her day is also populated with some disturbed and misshapen characters. Kenny, Claire's son, is a foulmouthed punk in a black knit cap and trench coat. As Kenny and Richard race down the highway in search of Claire, Kenny smokes a joint in the car. Richard, a not entirely reformed party boy, joins him just before they get pulled over by a belligerent cop named Heidi.

Back at Gertie's, the Limping Man (as he's identified in the program) continues to work on his murky scheme, aided by a bashful man named Millet, who speaks most candidly through his foulmouthed puppet. Did I mention that Millet and the Limping Man (who has scar tissue covering nearly half his face, and who, in a bizarrely related fact, fears bacon) both have manacles dangling from their wrists? And that Gertie keeps trying in her garbled way to tell Claire that something is very, very wrong?

As Claire, Nancy Robinette is sweetly disoriented and anxious. Wringing her hands and wrinkling her brow, Robinette is often hilarious (though more often the straight man) and sometimes a little touching as Claire tries to figure out whom to trust and what secrets lurk in her past. Director Lee Mikeska Gardner whips up a hurricane of performances around Robinette as more than half the cast -- Woolly's Lindsay-Abaire Players -- returns from "Wonder of the World."

Bruce Nelson puts the pedal to the metal as Limping Man, thumping around and lisping with a hail of spittle; he goes roaring over the top, and the whole show seems to follow him. (Where else can you go in a play that features a full-scale brawl with knives and guns in Gertie's kitchen?) Rosemary Knower manages to be splendidly communicative via Gertie's stroke-speak, and Doug Brown brings an amusing matter-of-fact weirdness to Millet's peculiar schizophrenia.

Michael Russotto has a touch of the nebbish as Richard, while Andrew Smith and Emily Townley are fierce as Kenny and Heidi. "Fuddy Meers" is cleverly constructed, and it has a warm heart. But mainly it's a group romp.

Fuddy Meers, by David Lindsay- Abaire. Directed by Lee Mikeska Gardner. Lighting, Lisa L. Ogonowski; costumes, Lynn Steinmetz; sound, Hana Sellers. Through July 14 at the Kennedy Center's AFI Theater. Call 202-467-4600.

Michael Russotto and Nancy Robinette in Woolly Mammoth's production of "Fuddy Meers," playing at the Kennedy Center.As Claire, Nancy Robinette loses her memory each night while she sleeps.