Noises Off Theatre Review - A Noise Within Ends Fall 2009 Season With the Sounds of Side-splitting Laughter

The cast and director (clockwise from upper left: Deborah Strang, Geoff Elliot, Stephen Rockwell, Jill Hill)help Poppy (Lenne Klingamen, bottom left)to prevent a theatrical disaster

(Glendale, CA) November 22, 2009 – Organizing a theatre reparatory season is very much like an author constructing a short story collection. The writer has to begin with a bang from the very first tale and keep the reader going throughout the creative mosaic. He does so by presenting other tales that not only must be of the same high literary quality as the first story, but they must also be diversified in their themes and styles. This can also be said with a theatre company and their season line-up. It is essential to grab the patron’s attention with its opener, establishing a subtle foundation, then build on that cornerstone with plays that somehow enhance the theatre-going experience even more.

A Nose Within is no amateur when it comes to expanding its audience base. Its eighteenth season is the company’s final year at the Glendale location before it moves to a larger venue in Pasadena, and their goal to end their tenure with a bang has been extremely successful so far with Shakespeare’s historical epic Richard III and the adaptation of Dostoevsky’s psychological epic Crime and Punishment. But A Noise Within needed to follow up these two dramas with a play that is not only of high quality, but also provides a catharsis to elevate the dramatic tension of the other shows. Three dramas presented in reparatory is just too much for any theatre lover to handle. Thankfully, A Noise Within has chosen Michael Frayn’s classic Noises Off, which has been selling out to audiences since it opened on their stage a week ago. The Glendale based theatre group’s production of NOISES OFF is a perfectly oiled farcical machine that combines the incredible talents of its direction, the acting, and especially the often underappreciated scenic crew.
 

Frederick (Stephen Rockwell) and his sardines

In the course of three frenetic acts, Frayn introduces to us how a theatre company presents the world première of a new play. The sarcastic, narcissistic director Lloyd Dallas ( Geoff Elliott) is trying to perform the ultimate miracle of getting his theatre company ready for opening night of their production of Nothing On…which is occurring in only twelve hours! Of course, the actors are far from ready and the stage managers---Tim and Poppy ( Shaun Anthony and Lenne Klingaman)---are overworked and burnt out by their hectic schedules and from the verbal abuse of Dallas. Meanwhile, during the dress rehearsal, we are witness to the drama behind the scenes with the acting company:  the aging, legendary, leading lady Dotty ( Deborah Strang) is having a tumultuous affair with her leading costar Garry ( Mikael Salazar); character actor Freddy ( Stephen Rockwell) has been dumped by his wife and is seeking consolation from good-hearted Brenda (Jill Hill); ancient, alcoholic Selsden (Apollo Dukakis) falls off the wagon once again; and bubble headed blonde Brooke ( Emily Kosloski) is completely clueless to everything around her, especially when she keeps losing her contact lenses at the most inconvenient times during the show’s run. And then, we have plates of sardines…but that is another story.

Dotty (Deborah Strang) sits on her sardines

The key ingredient for Noises Off to succeed is there is only one star in the show: the overall, organic unity of the production itself: acting, direction, and scenic crew. In the first act of the show, we see the rehearsal process from the front point of view of the stage. The second act, the sets are rotated and swung around as we see what happens backstage during the production of Nothing On. And then in the third act, the sets are returned to the front view once again as we see the show at the end of their run. And throughout the entire time, we see all facets of Noises Off flow together beautifully. Co-director Geoff Elliot and Julia Rodriguez Elliot have flawlessly choreographed the blocking and pacing without a hitch, especially during the second act where it moves like a silent comedy. And bravo to all members of the production crew for expertly (and quickly) moving the sets for the appropriate acts, while certain background music---including The Beatles “Come Together” and “A Hard Days Night” and Queen’s “Under Pressure”---enhance the frantic story even more. During both intermissions, the crew received an applause for their hard work, and they very well deserved it.

The cast peers at the mayhem backstage


 
And last, but certainly not least, we come to the brilliant acting of the ensemble. Elliot has fun portraying the smug director who slowly but surely comes to the end of his rope when he loses control of his company (and the fact his character is also directing another show in reparatory--- Richard III---adds to the inside joke even more so since Elliot, too, also directed Richard III for A Noise Within). Salazar’s Garry is even more hilariously self-indulgent than Dallas, and his physical comedy is an incredible sight to behold. Just as Salazar can fall down a flight of stairs with ease, Rockwell’s goodhearted and broken hearted Freddy can leap up a flight of stairs with his pants around his ankles.  Strang’s Dotty is adorably absent-minded in the beginning of the show and bitingly deadpan towards the end when no matter what mistakes occur, she just rolls with the punches. Dukakis’s Selsden is truly mischievous as the cast drunk, and Kosloski’s Brooke is a joy when she plays up her “dumb-as-dirt” diva with relish. Hill’s Brenda, who is probably the most level-headed actor of that dysfunctional troupe, is charming and sympathetic as she tries to keep her actors from either leaving the show or going into various forms nervous breakdowns. Finally, Anthony’s Tim and Klingamen’s Poppy (after showing incredible, draining performances in last year’s The Rehearsal and this year’s Richard III, Klingamen finally reveals her talented comedic chops) are truly wonderful as the stage managers who have to clean up all sorts of messes their director and actors create, while getting little in return.

Noises Off is a fantastic way for A Noises Within to end their 2009 Fall Season. After two breathtaking dramas and a belly-laugh of a comedy, 2010 is looking very promising indeed as they end 2009 with a blast and some style.
 
Noises Off opened November 14, 2009 and runs through December 20, 2009


A Noise Within
234 South Brand Boulevard
Glendale, CA 91204

online: www.anoisewithin.org

Photos by: Craig Schwartz

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