Reviewing Theatre For Over 40 Years
Classic Farce Triumphs: “Noises Off” hits La Mirada
The tale could be seen as a theatrical inside joke, except that everyone gets it. A second-rate provincial touring company is pulled together in small-town Britain to perform a modern French-style farce. From the final dress rehearsal it is obvious the beleaguered director cannot control the mental vagaries, the interpersonal squabbles, or the occasional idiocy of his performers. From this foundation, one follows their tour as the production and the performance gradually fractures under these interpersonal stresses. Still, saying all of that does not go half way toward explaining the absolute delight of precision timing and spectacularly physical comedy which ensues.
This play works if it becomes a truly ensemble piece, with nobody standing out above the rest. Director Richard Seyd has collected one of the most experienced casts in McCoy Rigby history, and it shows in every wave, every slammed door, and every moment of the slapstick which works so exquisitely well. It also shows in the ensemble spirit.
Lori Larsen’s memory-challenged veteran actress coping with a litany of prop moves sets the stage. Matthew Miller’s exquisitely vague leading man and Annie Abrams’ oblivious vixen accent the fun. Leland Crooke, as the aging veteran, Maura Vincent as the gamely competent performer and James Lancaster as the actor who does just fine as long as someone hides the bottle complete the onstage acting crew. Joe Delafield’s overworked and innocent carpenter and Rona Benson’s wallflower stage manager add particularly to the backstage mayhem, while Bo Foxworth rages and fumes as a director struggling between passion and despair as his show fumbles along.
One possible issue for someone who has not seen “Noises Off” enough to wait for the comedy to build is the necessary element of any French-style farce. Before the funniest portions of the story can develop, one must set the scene. The first act of this show, as per the form, shows that initial dress rehearsal, introducing the characters and their particular bumblings, and letting one know what the director expects the play within this play to look like. This is necessary for the second act’s humor, when it all goes terribly, comically awry. Sadly, on the night I saw this show, a significant number of audience members left before that hysterical second act, missing the reason to see this show at all.
John Iacovelli’s delightful, reversable set adds much to the general craziness. Rose Pederson gives the costumes an update, and manages in one case the odd combination of total coverage and intended titillation. It’s quite a feat. Indeed, this proves one of the most well-crafted versions of this play I’ve seen in a long time. Go see it and laugh unabashedly. I certainly did.
What: “Noises Off” When: Through October 16, 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays Where: La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd. in La Mirada How Much: $35 – $50 Info: (562) 944-9801, (714) 994-6310, or http://www.lamirada theatre.com.