PCRT TAKES US BACKSTAGE AND ONSTAGE WITH THEIR 1ST NON-MUSICAL, AS THIS WILD COMEDY
IS A SURE LAUGH FACTORY.
The classic backstage door slamming madding fun NOISES OFF by British playwright Michael Frayn is now on stage at Pacific Coast Repertory Theatre. The 1982 farce brings huge laughs to the Pleasanton Firehouse Arts Center through February 11th. NOISES OFF brings a hapless troupe of actors who descend into chaos as they produce and perform a play. The Marx Brothers, Benny Hill type romp switches the audience’s point of view from onstage to offstage between acts with a clever set by Patrick Brandon. Each of the nine performers must play an actor and that actor’s role, in split-second timing and elaborate slapstick choreography is essential to the perfect comic timing needed to pull off this wild script.
Director David Judson also appears in the cast as the play director Lloyd “I thought it would be fun for me, the actual director, to play the director within the show. I am humbled and thankful that our company and cast trusted me with this honor. I am also blessed to have such an incredible artistic team” says Judson. This marks PCRT’s first non musical production and this wild challenge is the best way to move into plays. NOISES is a shameless British farce with missed cues, forgotten lines, slamming doors, love triangles, pratfalls, and sardines flying everywhere. It rages into complete pandemonium and each of the three acts gives us a different point of view of the theatre world.
The first act of NOISES OFF takes place during the final dress rehearsal of the play Nothing On. Lloyd Dallas, is wonderfully played by Judson, who enters from the audience and does much of his performance in the house during the first act. Director Judson, who is assisted by Daniel Rubio, brings the high speed cast its charm and Marx Brothers perfection of tumbles and war of words “Lloyd: I'm starting to know what God felt like when he sat out there in the darkness, creating the world. Belinda: And what did he feel like, Lloyd my dear? Lloyd: Very pleased he'd taken his Valium." The marvelous Jennifer Stark plays the confused Dotty, the lost diva playing the Cockney maid and cook of the country home up for rent as she deals with unexpected visitors.
The director quickly loses his patience as his cast breaks character, misses lines, entrances, and forgetting props, and challenging him with his role as director. One of the actresses is the sexy, adorable, Brooke Ashton, played with fun and skill by Ayelet Firstenberg; she is clueless about her fellow actors needs and brings the entire production to a halt. The enthusiastic Michael Doppe plays Garry, the young handsome actor is the estate agent who is trying to use the home for a hook up with Brooke. Firstenberg as the sexy Brook plays most of her scenes in slinky lingerie. The lost and drunk Selsdon Mowbray, the old lush played by the witty David Bryant, is a burglar and hiding his whisky on the set or back stage is amusing. It becomes great shtick as his bottle flies around the set from backstage to down stage.
Exits, entrances, and prop swaps are exact and smooth that include plates of fish and a sharp swinging ax. The prop team includes Brady, Holly, Katie, and Kristie Judson with piles of ropes, chairs, phones, canes and stage weapons.The actors have to work like interlocking gears. If they don’t pull it off with precision, the joke falls apart completely. Much of the second act is done without lines or in whispered voices, and it is great fun to sit and enjoy watching this skilled ensemble portray second rate actors trying to get through their scenes. The speed and antics of the second act backstage hi-jinks is the highlight of the evening, a skilled dance of humor.
The witty Ross Neuenfeldt is awkwardly nerdy as the simple minded Freddie who is one of the owners of the home. The likeable Brandy Collazo plays the charming distant Belinda, who is like the “mom” of the story within a story who wants to make it all good with her cast mates. Other strong performances include Salim Razawi who is excellent as the worn down stagehand and Hannah Mary Keller who plays Poppy, the lost stage manager. With a fast pace enormous three act show like NOISES including the lightning fast exits, entrances and set changes, the real stage manager Anastasia Wirth and her crew Lily Miller and Samantha Tong are to be commended; this crew pulls this demanding two and half hour ride with no hitches.
Physically, the production is demanding and deck crew Carly Becerra and Matt Busbee have minutes to transform Patrick Brandon’s set to a backstage view. Naturally, the star of this madness is Brandon’s set of doors windows and staircases. The set is responsible for telling much of the story. The doors never fail except when they’re meant too. Margaret daSilva’s costumes instantly conjure the basic glamour of ’70s British sex comedies in just the way “Benny Hill”; original music reminds you of Marx Brothers and Monty Python sitcom classics. Kevin August Landesman’s light design takes us backstage and covers the main house set and all the second floor action. Karl Haller’s sound design includes no mics on the actors but a nice intercom system that the actors use to talk to each other. You do get the feel of “zips” “pops’ and “bangs” as the actors wrestle and toss and turn, but you also fear the flying sardines might land in your lap.
By Act Three, two months has passed and several company feuds, there is little life left in Nothing On. The set has transformed once again so we see it from the front, but everyone is ready for the madness too close. The cast is still standing and the audience is just as exhausted. This company has to memorize lines for two plays that happen at the same moment so this timing is critical. The actors must also memorize detials that don’t add to the story or make much sense. Judson and Rubio have given the play an American edge by having the actors play their roles in western tones and their character roles with British accents. It all works very well and this romp will keep you on your seat’s edge with laughter. Next up at PCRT is ROCK OF AGES the 80’s spectacular that opens late spring April 28th, but in the meantime join NOISES OFF’s wild ride and be ready to catch some flying Sardines.
Pacific Coast Repertory Theatre presents
By Michael Frayn
Directed by David Judson
Stage Manager Anastasia Wirth
Must Close this weekend Feb. 11
Firehouse Arts Center, 4444 Railroad Ave., Pleasanton
2 hours and 15 minutes, two intermissions
TICKETS www.pcrtproductions.org or www.firehousearts.org
Photo’s by Berenice Ku Sullivan
Noises Off Cast
Jennifer Stark, Michael Doppe*, Ayelet Firstenberg*, Hannah Keller,
Ross Neuenfeldt, Brandy Collazo
Salim Razawi, David Bryant*, David Judson*