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Let’s Get Noisy! A Noise Within Has “Noises Off”

Stephen Rockwell has an unsettled moment in Noises Off at A Noise Within


In what may be a very sensible move, A Noise Within, still settling into its polished new home in Pasadena, has resurrected a production done two times previously in their old Glendale space. Michael Frayn’s classic bit of silliness, “Noises Off” is a farce inside a farce. Done well, it guarantees belly laughs. Top drawer actors like those in this ANW production get a chance to chew the scenery with abandon, and show off the very timing their characters are supposed to lack. As such, it’s a sure crowd-pleaser and for many an old friend well met.

The story involves a rather shaky provincial theatrical company preparing and performing in a tour of a little sex comedy. The characters include an aging actress with questionable memory, and a collection of has-beens, second-raters and bimbos tied together by a director on his last nerve. We walk them through their final rehearsal, then follow them on the road as personal upheavals in the company “family” make performing the play each night more and more complicated.

The delight at ANW is, quite simply, the quality of the acting and the precision of the direction which lets the best of this silly play shine. Most of this company was involved with the two previous productions, and step into the parts with a familiarity and polish which allows every timing gag and every bit of outrageous silliness to shine.

Deborah Strang hits the right combination of befuddlement and intensity as the aging Dolly, whose production this is, and whose romantic entanglements fuel much of the backstage upheaval. Michael Salazar creates the perfect Garry – a man with the most imprecise conversation on record. Lenne Klingaman bustles about beautifully as Poppy, the competent actress and company gossip. Emily Kosloski gives the detached and by-rote bimbo, Brooke, the perfect tone.

Stephen Rockwell’s emotionally fragile leading man, Frederick, and Apollo Dukakis’ pleasantly earnest, hearing impaired, recovering alcoholic, Selsdon, add their timing and character precision to the general hysteria. Jill Hill and Shaun Anthony move much of the comedy forward as the comparatively non-ego-motivated backstage staff. Geoff Elliott becomes the binder to all of this as the desperately exasperated director who tries to hone this comedy into something saleable, all the while dreaming of his next gig directing Richard III.

Elliott, who along with Julia Rodriguez-Elliot actually is the director of “Noises Off,” has managed that impressive, pinpoint timing which makes this silly play so beloved by actors and audiences alike. One false move, one slow door or late action would blow the comedy apart, but one needn’t worry. The result has the precision of a clock, allowing every bit of comedy to come through.

“Noises Off” is one of the silliest of a silly genre. Each of its three acts offers yet one more layer on the humor, so don’t assume that once you have seen the first act you know what is going to happen. Rather, just sit back and enjoy. You’ll rarely see it done as well.

What: “Noises Off” When: through January 15, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 7 p.m., with matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. Where: A Noise Within, 3352 E. Foothill Blvd in Pasadena How Much: $42 – $46 Info: (626) 356-3100 or http://www.ANoiseWithin.org

Classic Farce Triumphs: “Noises Off” hits La Mirada

Lori Larsen and Rona Benson star in LA MIRADA THEATRE FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS & MC COY RIGBY ENTERTAINMENT'S production of NOISES OFF, now playing at the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts in La Mirada.

Of all the variations on the classic farce I have seen over a long career, only two can, on stages large and small, with professionals or gifted amateurs, be guaranteed to be fall-out-of-your-chair funny. Every time. One is “Noises Off,” now receiving an especially polished, richly satisfying performance at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts as part of the McCoy Rigby Entertainment Series. Once again, I was laughing until tears ran down my face. Believe me, this is rare.

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.

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