Reviewing Theatre For Over 40 Years
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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