Monday, March 27, 2017

"Noises Off" ☼ ☼ ☼ BANG

It felt like everyone in the audience had seen "Noises Off" at least once before. Between Act One and Act Two people on all sides of us were giggling with excitement during Intermission. "Just wait 'til Act Two," they said. They were right, but Act One is very funny too.

Michael Frayn's show-within-a-show premiered in London in 1982 at the Old Vic. The show is Farce with a capital F, filled with randy actors, a frustrated director and two excellent behind-the-scenes technicians who are also understudying for every major role, seeing as the principals could disappear or pass out dead drunk at any moment.  Act One is the last minute rehearsal before Opening Night, and Act Two is the same show seen from behind the curtain as everyone scrambles to get out the correct door wearing the proper costume. The latter half of Act Two is that same show, on Opening Night, seen from the audience's viewpoint, as the drunken cast memorably screws everything up.

The show we have already seen in rehearsal, now seen from backstage, is the brilliance of "Noises Off." So yes, the first half of Act Two is terrific. ("Noises Off" is a stage direction indicating a voice that comes from Off Stage.)  Belly laughs and gasps for air. Doors. Lots of doors.

The cast is packed with San Francisco Playhouse regulars, such as Johnny Moreno as the Director Lloyd. Lloyd is carrying on simultaneously with Brooke (Monique Hafen, resplendent in red underwear) and Poppy (Monica Ho, as the stage manager but also understudy to Brooke so she wears red underwear too). Marvelously dotty Dotty, played by Kimberly Richards, is eventually having a fling it Gary (Patrick Russell)? Or is that Belinda (Nanci Zoppi) with Gary? No, she's with Frederick (Craig Marker). Doesn't matter.

Certainly, the show is stolen by Richard Louis James who plays the doddering Selsdon. Selsdon's mission in life is to get his hands on the bottle of whiskey brought backstage by Lloyd. That bottle of whiskey succeeds in its mission to destroy any chance this crew had of surviving Opening Night without taking down the curtain. Selsdon's lines are basically incomprehensible to us, but we don't care. We love him. We also love the show's savior, Tim, played by Greg Ayers, seen above as Selsdon's understudy, with Nanci Zoppi understandably dubious.

What a difficult show to mount and choreograph. Director Susi Damilano will not sleep until the run is complete.


The San Francisco Theater Blog awards "Noises Off" Three Stars with a Bangle of Praise. Act Two plays a little long but this will improve during the run. Acting, Set and Story earn one Star each with the BANGLE for Damilano's figuring out how to get everyone in and out on time. As it were.

"Noises Off"
San Francisco Playhouse
450 Post St. (2d floor of Kensington Park Hotel)
Through May 13, 2017

(This is a show with something happening on all sides of the stage. All seats are good at SFP, but this is one case when center will be best. We suggest front-row center in the mezzanine, if available.)

No comments: