BWW Reviews: Rubicon's Revival of NOISES OFF Is Absolutely Smashing
Noises Off/by Michael Frayn/directed by Kenneth Albers/Rubicon Theatre, Ventura/through February 23
At the top of Act II of Michael Frayn's now classic farce Noises Off, one of the actors states, "This is getting farcical". The line fits the crazy goings on backstage to perfection, but it goes a giant step further in expressing just how totally out of control this theatrical experience is becoming. If you have never seen the play, it's about a troupe of British actors who are putting on a comedy entitled Nothing On. It is indeed a play within a play, that totally reflects Christopher Durang's The Actor's Nightmare, which symbolizes literally... going onstage and not knowing who you are or what you're doing.
Let's start at the top. Act I shows a tech rehearsal of Nothing On, which is quickly turning disastrous. Act II is behind stage during a performance of Nothing On where the actors' personal relationships with one another have taken precedence over the execution of their roles. Act III brilliantly explores annihilation, whereby nobody or nothing is as we knew it at the top. Now onstage at the Rubicon in Ventura in a sensational revival directed by the great Kenneth Albers and costarring a stellar cast, Noises Off takes flight from the get-go and never lets down.
For an actor in the theatre this play has some terribly funny, unforgettable lines and moments. For example, multiple times, the director invokes "This cast is beyond the help of a director". How many of us actors have encountered problems with miscasting that makes for bad chemistry in a play? Sometimes, it's the director who's to blame, although not so here. But, the director's "doors and sardines...getting them on and getting them off" is certainly a humorous reminder of picking up the pace especially in farce, which is so dependent on pacing for its success. Another of the delightful things about Frayn's writing as in most good British farce are the double entendres...and in Noises Off, getting it on and getting it off is merely one of many.
This is ensemble playing at its ultimate best. Every actor shines. Robynn Rodriguez makes a strong, sturdy Dotty Otley. William Langan realistically conveys the frustrating life of director Lloyd Dallas, who keeps several of the ladies in the cast on a string namely numb Brooke Ashton played deliciously by Alyson Lindsay and stage manager Poppy Norton Taylor beautifully realized by Joanna Strapp. Rudolph Willrich is delightful as oldster, lush Selsdon Mowbray. Andrew Borba has fun with the nosebleeding Frederick Fellowes, Catherine Lynn Davis equally so as his neglected wife Belinda Blair. Eric Curtis Johnson is a terrific physical comedian as Garry Lejeune and Toby Tropper makes Tim Allgood another standout, who rushes around in a bloody tailspin. It takes impeccable timing to pull off farce this precise... and this troupe are most definitely up to it 150%.
Congratulations to Thomas S. Giamario for his neat rotating set and lighting design, to sound designer Kenny Hobbs and to costume designer Marcy Froehlich for perfect period clothes.
Don't miss Noises Off even if you have seen it before. I did in 1983 on Broadway, and this cast is every bit as wonderful as the original. Noises Off is a deliciously unpredictable tribute to the theatre, its pitfalls and terror-filled nightmares. It is hysterically funny and worth seeing over and over again.