The play is set in Paris at the turn of the 20th century. Raymonde Chandebise, after years of wedded bliss, begins to doubt the fidelity of her husband, Victor Emmanuel, who has suddenly become sexually inactive. Raymonde is unaware that his behaviour is due to a nervous condition. She confides her doubts to her old friend Lucienne, who suggests a trick to test him. They write him a letter, in Lucienne’s handwriting, from a fictitious and anonymous admirer, requesting a rendezvous at the Frisky Puss Hotel on Avenue Coq d’Or, an establishment with a dubious reputation, but a large and prominent clientele. Raymonde intends to confront her husband there, and she and Lucienne leave to do so.
When Victor Emmanuel receives the letter, however, he has no interest in such an affair and believes the invitation from the mysterious woman was meant for his best friend Tournel, a handsome bachelor. Unknown to Victor Emmanuel, Tournel has his eye on Raymonde and eagerly exits to make the appointment.
Camille, the young nephew of Victor Emmanuel, is overjoyed to have his speech impediment corrected by a new silver palate from Dr. Finache. In celebration, he and the household cook, Antoinette, also hurry to the Hotel Coq d’Or, followed by Etienne, Antoinette's jealous husband. Dr. Finache decides to go to the hotel in search of his own afternoon rendezvous.
Victor Emmanuel shows the letter to Lucienne’s husband, Carlos Homenides de Histangua, a passionate and violent Spaniard. Carlos recognizes Lucienne’s handwriting and assumes that she is trying to start an affair with Victor Emmanuel. He runs off to the hotel, vowing to kill her. Victor Emmanuel, hoping to prevent the threatened murder, hurries off in pursuit.
The various characters arrive in search of their goals: Finache for fun; Raymonde for Victor Emmanuel; Tournel for Raymonde; Camille with Antoinette, followed by Etienne; Carlos for Lucienne; and Victor Emmanuel to stop Carlos.
Carlos, attempting to kill his wife, shoots at anything that moves. Victor Emmanuel sees Raymonde talking with Tournel and believes she is unfaithful. Victor Emmanuel is believed to be insane when Poche, an alcoholic porter at the hotel who is a dead ringer for Victor Emmanuel, is mistaken for him. Camille loses his palate, and Tournel tries very hard to seduce Raymonde.
The confusion persists even after all are reunited again at Victor Emmanuel’s house. Things begin to clear up when Carlos discovers a rough copy of the letter written by Lucienne on Raymonde’s desk, this one in Raymonde’s handwriting. The owner of the hotel comes by to return an article left behind by a member of the household and clears up the confusion between his porter and Victor Emmanuel. Finally, Raymonde tells Victor Emmanuel the cause of her suspicions, and he assures her that he will put an end to her doubts—tonight.
Victor Emmanuel Chandebise is the faithful husband to Raymonde. He is having emotional issues that lead Raymonde to believe he is cheating on her. He looks remarkably like Poche.Poche is a drunken porter of the Hotel Coq d'Or. He looks exactly like Victor Emmanuel and the two are often confused. He is played by the same actor as Victor Emmanuel.
Raymonde Chandebise believes her husband Victor Emmanuel is cheating when she, in fact, is having an affair with Romain Tournel. Her best friend is Lucienne.
Camille is the nephew to Victor Emmanuel. His speech impediment (being unable to pronounce consonants) leads people to lose their patience with him. He receives a silver palate to correct his impediment from Dr. Finache but promptly loses it at the Hotel.
Lucienne Homenides De Histangua is the best friend of Raymonde and the wife of Carlos. She introduces Raymonde to the plot to incriminate her husband.
Don Carlos Homenides De Histangua is a client of Victor Emmanuel and an extremely jealous husband. He carries guns regularly and is not afraid to use them.
Romain Tournel is the best friend and business partner of Victor Emmanuel and the lover of Raymonde. Chandebise sends him to the Hotel Coq d'Or, where he is delighted to find Raymonde.
Dr. Finache is the doctor for the Life Insurance Co. that Chandebise and Tournel work for. He is a personal friend of Victor Emmanuel and Victor's nephew Camille and helps them with their issues. He is a frequent patron of the Hotel Coq d'Or.
Etienne is the nosy butler of Victor Emmanuel, married to Antoinette.
Ferallion is the militarous proprietor of the Hotel Coq d'Or, the nephew of Baptistin, and the husband of Olympe.
Olympe is an ex-prostitute and the wife of Feraillon.
Antoinette is the cook in the Chandebise home, married to Etienne but having an affair with Camille.
Eugenie is a maid in the hotel, may or may not be fooling around with Poche.
Baptistin is Feraillon's drunken uncle whom he employs.
Rugby is a randy British guest at the hotel who speaks little or no French. He attempts to seduce Lucienne and Antoinette. In translated versions, this character is often replaced with different names and ethnicities (such as a German man named "Herr Schwarz" in the 1967 English-language BBC production).
The BBC broadcast a production of the play on 7 June 1967. It marked the television debut of Anthony Hopkins, playing Étienne Plucheux. The same year, the RAI -TV of Italy gave a live broadcast from the Teatro Stabile of Genoa, directed by Luigi Squarzina, starring Olga Villi and Alberto Lionello. In 1976, the ERT gave a broadcast of play, adapted for television, directing and starring by Dinos Iliopoulos, Panos Panopoulos, Nikos Kapios, Manolis Destounis, Dinos Doulgerakis etc. The Mega Channel gave a deferred broadcast in 2015 from the play, as played in the theater "Alice" (Αλίκη) in Athens, 2013–2014 theatrical season.
John Mortimer then wrote the screenplay for a 1968 20th Century Fox feature film directed by Jacques Charon (who had also directed Mortimer's 1966 translation for the stage). The cast included Rex Harrison, Rosemary Harris, Louis Jourdan, and Rachel Roberts.
The stage is first set in a comfortable home and then transitions to a vulgar hotel.
John Mortimer translated the play for the National Theatre, opening at the Old Vic in 1966. It was directed by Jacques Charon and starred Albert Finney and Geraldine McEwan. This translation was revived at the same theatre from 4 December 2010 to 5 March 2011, directed by Richard Eyre and starring Tom Hollander and Lisa Dillon .
The first American production – an updated translation – occurred in the spring of 1967 at the Loeb Theater, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
An English language translation by Barnett Shaw had a brief Broadway run at the ANTA Playhouse in 1969. It was directed by Gower Champion and starred Robert Gerringer and Ruth Kobart.
An adaptation by Jean-Marie Besset and Mark O'Donnell was staged by the Roundabout Theatre Company in New York City in 1998. Directed by Bill Irwin, it opened on 5 March and ran for 77 performances. The cast included Mark Linn-Baker, Alice Playten, and Richard B. Shull.
A translation/adaptation by Greg Leaming was originally commissioned by the Classical Acting Company in Dallas, Texas in 2003, and was first produced by that theatre in May 2004.
An adaptation by David Ives was commissioned by the Chicago Shakespeare Theater and first performed March 10, 2006 at CST. This version was performed by the Constellation Theatre Company at the Source Theater in Washington, DC from 8 October to 8 November 2009, by the Rockville [ Maryland ] Little Theatre from 5–14 October 2012, and by the Hedgerow Theater (Rose Valley, Pennsylvania) in March–April 2013.
An adaptation by Charles Edward Pogue was commissioned by Centre Stage South Carolina and premiered on October 30, 2014.
Východočeské divadlo, PardubiceDirected by Lída Engelová. The play had premiere 5 and 6 April 2008 in Eastern Bohemian Theatre, Pardubice. Czech title is Brouk v hlavě.
Viktor Emanuel Champsboisy and Bouton .... Jiří Kalužný
Camille Champsboisy .... Ladislav Špiner
Marcela Champsboisy .... Jindra Janoušková
Romain Tournel .... Martin Mejzlík
Carlos Homenides de Histangua .... Martin Mňahončák
Luisa Homenides de Histangua .... Kristina Jelínková
Doktor Finache .... Václav Dušek
Étienne .... Radek Žák
Yvette .... Martina Sikorová
Augustin Ferraillon .... Zdeněk Rumpík
Olympe Ferraillon .... Dagmar Novotná
Eugenia .... Romana Chvalová
Rugby, American customer .... Alexandr Postler
Baptistin .... Jindřich Kratochvíl
Městské divadlo, BrnoDirected by Gustav Skála. The play had premiere at 27 April 1996 in City Theatre, Brno. 143 repeats.
Viktor Emanuel Champsboisy and Bouton .... Jiří Dvořák (understudying of Petr Štěpán)
Camille Champsboisy .... Igor Ondříček
Marcela Champsboisy .... Jana Musilová
Romain Tournel .... Erik Pardus
Carlos Homenides de Histangua .... Ladislav Kolář
Luisa Homenides de Histangua .... Zdena Herfortová
Doktor Finache .... Josef Jurásek
Étienne .... Karel Mišurec
Yvette .... Markéta Sedláčková, Mária Lalková (understudying of Petra Jungmannová)
Augustin Ferraillon .... Zdeněk Junák
Olympe Ferraillon .... Eva Gorčicová
Eugenia .... Marcela Dürrová
Rugby, American customer .... Tomáš Sagher/Robert Jícha
Baptistin .... ???
Divadlo Na Vinohradech, PragueDirected by Václav Hudeček. The play had premiere in 1970 at Vinohrady Theatre, Prague.
Viktor Emanuel Champsboisy and Bouton .... Vlastimil Brodský
Otakar Brousek, Sr.
Yugoslav Drama Theatre, Belgrade
Translated as Buba u uhu and directed by Ljubiša Ristić, the premiere took place on 7 June 1971. With approximately 1,500 performances as of May 2013, Buba u uhu is the longest-running play in the history of Serbian theater.
Original cast:Viktor Emanuel Champsboisy and Bouton .... Nikola Simić
Camille Champsboisy .... Milan Gutović
Marcela Champsboisy .... Rada Đuričin
Romain Tournel .... Voja Brajović
Carlos Homenides de Histangua .... Marko Todorović
Luisa Homenides de Histangua .... Branka Petrić
Doktor Finache .... Moris Levi
Étienne .... Boro Stjepanović
Yvette .... Zorica Šumadinac
Augustin Ferraillon .... Vlasta Velisavljević
Eugenia .... Vesna Latinger
Baptistin .... Branko Milenković
Alice Theater, Athens, 2013–2014
Translated as "Ψύλλοι στ' αυτιά" (Psili St' Aftia), adapted by Thodoris Petropoulos and directed by Yannis Kakleas, the premiere took place on 10 October 2013 and performances ended on 13 April 2014.
Cast:Viktor Emanuel Saint-Epige and Pos .... Hristos Hadjipanayotis
Gabriel .... Vicky Stavropoulou
Luisien Castillon De Histangua .... Sofia Moutidou
Carlos Castillon De Histangua .... Kostas Apostolakis
Doktor Finache .... Thomas Paliouras
Tournel .... Konstantinos Kakouris
Russian Man .... George Kopsidas
Augustin Ferraillon .... Kostas Triantafillopoulos
Eugenia Ferraillon .... Mina Adamaki
Camil Saint-Epige .... Panos Vlahos
Baptistin .... Markos Bouyas
Porta Theater, Athens, 1984–1985
Directed and adapted by Minos Volanakis.
Cast:Viktor Emanuel Saint-Epige and Pos .... Stavros Paravas
Gabriel .... Betty Arvaniti
Luisien Castillon De Histangua .... Xenia Kalogeropoulou
Carlos Castillon De Histangua .... Hristos Biros
Tournel .... Perikis Moustakis
Augustin Ferraillon .... Nikos Kavvadas
Eugenia Ferraillon .... Natasa Tsakarisianou
Gloria Theater, Athens, 1995–1996
Directed and adapted by Minos Volanakis.
Cast:Viktor Emanuel Saint-Epige and Pos .... Spiros Papadopoulos
Gabriel .... Hristina Theodoropoulou
Luisien Castillon De Histangua .... Jessy Papoutsi
Carlos Castillon De Histangua .... Hristos Biros
Tournel .... Nikos Alexiou
Augustin Ferraillon .... Spiros Kalogirou
Eugenia Ferraillon .... Smaragda Smirneou
As part of its 2016 season, the Sydney Theatre Company presented the play at the Sydney Opera House Drama Theatre in a new adaptation by Andrew Upton.
Directed by Simon Philips and designed by Gabriela Tylesova.Directed by Zdeněk Zelenka.
Viktor Emmanuel Champsboisy and Bouton .... Viktor Preiss
Camille Champsboisy .... Michal Novotný
Marcela Champsboisy .... Zlata Adamovská
Romain Tournel .... Jan Hrušínský
Carlos Homenides de Histangua .... Martin Dejdar
Luisa Homenides de Histangua .... Ilona Svobodová
Doktor Finache .... František Němec
Étienne .... Martin Taclík
Yvette .... Alžbeta Stanková
Augustin Ferraillon .... Václav Postránecký
Olympe Ferraillon .... Jaroslava Obermaierová
Baptistin .... Stanislav Fišer