Thursday, December 3, 2009

Noises Off by Michael Frayn

by Joe Straw

Noises Off is a rip roaring, lip smacking, trouser dropping, bra watching, door slamming, window breaking good time. The audience on this day was doubling over with laughter. Playing at A Noise Within (I know, it’s confusing.) in Glendale through December 20. Co-directed by Geoff Elliot and Julia Rodriguez-Elliot this remarkable play shows all that is quirky about theatre and the actors who populate the space.

In any case Noises Off is a play about a play, Nothing On, where women run around with little or nothing on and men equally seem to lose articles of clothing while no one seems to notice the smell of sardines in the air. And there are sardines everywhere. And around them there is some kind of a plot on stage.

From the people on stage to those in the theatre seats you get a reaction about art from everyone. The gentleman seating next to me after the first act asked if I was reviewing the show. I said it was more like an observation.

“Then I’ll withhold my comments.”

No go ahead, you have something you’d like to share, what did you think?

“Did you see me laughing?”


“I wasn’t.”

Dress Rehearsals for Nothing On.

Dotty Otley as Mrs. Clackett (Deborah Strang) brings in a plate or sardines as she’s about ready to watch a show about “The Royals”. The phone rings and she tells the caller the owners are in Spain. She leaves but forgets the sardines.

Gary Lejeune as Roger (Mikael Salazar) a sleazy real estate agent with naughty on his mind enters with his girlfriend Brooke Ashton as Vicky (Emily Kosloski) and sees the sardines. Lloyd Dallas (Geoff Elliott), the director, tries to fix the action on stage but Dotty is a bumbling forgetful head that can’t remember one moment from the next. And Gary is no help comparing his past wonderfully gifted directors to Dallas.

Enter Frederick Fellows as Phillip Brent (Stephen Rockwell) and his stage wife Belinda Blair as Flavia Brent (Jill Hill) secretly back from Spain to avoid paying taxes.

As they move about, the non actions on stage suggest that a person is missing. Selsdon Mowbray as the burglar (Apollo Dukakis) is nowhere to be found. All imagine him lying in the gutter, drunk as the proverbial skunk. He’s not. This time he’s just very slow and doesn’t make his entrance on time.

Opening night of Nothing On (backstage) technically, Noises Off.

Act two is very interesting in that they flip the stage around and now we are backstage looking at the actors preparing to go onstage opening night. The actors are tense and are nearing the breaking point. But they are all troupers as they let the action play on stage while quietly trying to kill each other backstage, hence the name Noises Off.

Lejeune is mad at everyone. Fellows tries to sooth jealousies without spilling too much of his own blood. Someone grabs an axe and bodies are flying about the stage for protection. Ashton looses her contacts and then walks out in the middle of the show when she finds out the director has been two timing her with Poppy (Lenne Klingaman). And all of the actors in one way or another are trying to hide the liquor bottle from Mowbray. And plates of sardines are flying everywhere!

This act is hilarious! Silently choreographed in meticulous detail, which has the audience wetting themselves.

“Well, that hit the mark,” said my seating partner.

Act three (the stage is flipped again) is some time later in the run with everything going wrong. There is not one single thing that is precise and the actors try to make the best of the catastrophes on stage. They play ends with all actors, in some kind of theatrical cohesions, holding plates of sardines up in the air. It is a testament to each of them to make sense of the play on this particular night. And it it so funny you will laugh the night away!

Geoff Elliott and Julia Rodriguez-Elliott co-direct this monstrosity of a play. It is a superb production with wonderful performances all around.

Adam Lilibridge was the set Set Designer with Soojin Lee was the Costume Designer.

A Noise Within is a wonderful theatre in Glendale, with wonderful actors, and a supporting staff that is second to none in Los Angeles. (Please check show times as this play is running in repertory.)

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