San Diego Theater Review: NOISES OFF (Lamb’s Players Theatre in Coronado)

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by Milo Shapiro on April 25, 2018

in Theater-Los Angeles,Theater-Regional


Half the fun of theater is in the performance; the other half is in the rehearsal. Rehearsal is the time for experimenting, bonding, and watching everything come together. Except when it isn’t. On those occasions, perhaps not so rare, it’s a time of tongue-biting, panic, and blame. Such is the case in Michael Frayn’s Noises Off − a manic farce within a farce about a play where nothing is going right.

At the onset, it is past midnight. Exhausted, overwhelmed director Lloyd Dallas (Francis Gercke) must get his bumbling set of actors ready for opening night of a complicated bedroom farce. He seems to be the only one who comprehends that their mess of miscues and forgotten lines is hours away from curtain time.

Intensifying his ticking time bomb is the cast of misfit personalities that he is dealing with, including numerous romantic connections that add fuel to the fire of problems. Lloyd himself is part of that tension as he tries to quietly keep affairs going with both sexy actress Brooke (Charlene Wilkinson) and awkward stage manager Poppy (Cynthia Gerber).

In Act I, we see a complete run-through of their little play called Nothing On, including constant interruptions by Lloyd and cast members despite the fact that they should be ready for a near-perfect dress rehearsal by now. Despite many funny moments, this act feels a bit long as we watch the whole sub-play, but we come to understand why we must recognize the entire script in order to fully appreciate what happens in the much funnier second act.

Act II takes place after an impressively-quick redressing of the stage (during intermission) such that we are now backstage at a performance of Nothing On. We are a couple of weeks into their run. Everyone knows their lines and cues. The problem now lies in the real drama: interpersonal jealousies and riffs. The gloves are off for all the silent feuding and attacks going on literally behind-the-scenes as the show must go on for the unseen audience. Under Robert Smyth’s direction, we are treated to outstanding physical comedy and split-second timing, with some of the greatest moments going to Brian Mackey as actor Gary whose required antics border on stunt man quality. One can only imagine the number of real rehearsals it took to have this many actors timing everything perfectly, and pulling it off beautifully.

Act III brings us back to the original set, but despite the fact that we’re even later in their run, things go wrong in a big way on this particular night. We now know quite well what should be happening; as props go awry and one actress is truly off her game, everyone scrambles to hold the plot together. Especially delightful is Brooke who somehow seems not to notice any of the many issues and carries on gleefully as if all is normal, doubling the effort of the other actors to figure out how to carry on without a single adjustment by her.

In addition to a great cast and a fun script, one must give due to Mike Buckley’s expert set design, which would be a noble effort on a stage that could rotate. Without that option on Lamb’s Players’ stage, Mr. Buckley does an extraordinary job with a enormous puzzle of parts that reconstructs itself fully between both acts, making Noises Off a technical achievement in addition to delightful entertainment.

photos by Ken Jacques

Noises Off
Lamb’s Players Theatre
1142 Orange Ave in Coronado
Tues-Thurs at 7:30; Fri and Sat at 8; Wed and Sun at 2; Sat at 4
ends on May 20, 2018
for tickets, call 619.437.6000 or visit Lamb’s

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