“Noises Off,” the 1982 play by English playwright Michael Frayn, is the current production at The Lakewood Playhouse.
This is a play about the harmonious camaraderie of a typical traveling theater company mounting the play, “Nothing On” and follows it on tour for several months.
The key words are “harmonious” and “camaraderie.” If you believe that, you realize immediately that “Noises Off” is – a farce; there is very little camaraderie or harmony left within a traveling company after months on tour.
This play is undoubtedly one of the funniest pieces of theatre in the modern world! It is fraught with sight gags, slap-stick, sardines, unbelievable word play and with the most believable characters; at least one real actor of whom seems to show up in almost every cast of every play since the days of Aristophanes.
Giant kudos goes to Director John Munn and Set Designers Larry Hagerman and Dylan Twiner. Their efforts remind one of Edgar Guest’s “It Couldn’t be Done.”
Munn was repeatedly told this when he said he wanted to do “Noises Off” at Lakewood. He was told the theatre was too small for the set demanded – a two-story reversible set with four doors up and four down and strong enough to withstand the antics played upon it – it can’t be done.
But, like in the poem, Munn said, “maybe it couldn’t… but wouldn’t say no till he’d tried.” Then he tackled the thing and – with the expert aid of Hagerman and Twiner, “did it!”
Backstage help to make this show the stunner it is comes from Stage Manger K.C. Beadle, Diane Runkel who brings together a perfect costume design, Brett Carr who does lights and, Nena Curley on sound and a myriad of volunteer carpenters who assisted Masters Hagerman and Art Fick.
It is hard to imagine a better choice of actors for this truly ensemble cast of nine, each of whom is absolutely perfect in their characterization, line delivery and timing.
Shelleigh-Mairi Ferguson plays Dotty Otley, a fading, past-her-prim actress who invested her own money in the production of “Nothing On,” in which she plays Mrs. Clackett, housekeeper for the Brent’s home. Ferguson is comically exasperating in Dotty’s forgetfulness; she easily shows the audience her emerging feelings for Freddy.
Jonathan Bill is Lloyd Dallas, the long-suffering director, who is so patient and understanding; he mollycoddles his actors and cares for them tenderly. Bill is brilliant in the role – maintaining comical frustration in the personal happenings of both “Nothing On” and the lives of his actors – until Act II when his frustration gets the better of him and turns into real fear that his world is falling apart both on and off stage; his antics to try to save all are simply hilarious.
Gary Chambers is Garry Lejeune, the thespian who is one of those actors who always tries to interject his feelings about a certain problem within the production but never seems able to get his thoughts to culminate. Chambers is perfect in his character of Roger, the estate agent trying to use the supposedly empty home as a place for a rendezvous with an eager client. Lejeune is enamored with Dotty and jealous of her attentions toward Freddy. Chambers releases his character’s violent temper in Act II, causing some of the funniest scenes in the play.
Jennifer Davy is Brooke Ashton, the charming, slow-witted actor who, as Vicki, is the aim of Roger’s intentions. She is also having a triangular relationship with Lloyd and (without her knowledge) Poppy. Davy maintains her “dumb blonde” character with alacrity at the drop of a contact lens. Davy’s character is so realistic it’s hard to accept that the actor isn’t really that dumbfound and naïve.
Ana Bury in Poppy Norton-Taylor, the troupe’s assistant stage manager and an understudy for Brooke, as well as being the final leg of the romantic Lloyd–Poppy–Brooke triangle. Bury is delightful as the overwhelmed stage manager trying to get the show up and running while trying to keep Lloyd placated. Bury, as Poppy, also expertly helps to reverse the set at intermissions.
Jim Rogers plays Frederick Fellowes, the hyper unsure of himself actor, and plays Phillip Brent, the somewhat dim-witted owner of the country home where all takes place. Fellowes is susceptible to nose bleeds at the drop of a handkerchief and very accident-prone. Rogers has the character down pat and plays both parts with gentle confusion. He genuinely accepts the affection from Dotty and the aid from Belinda.
Diana George is Belinda Blair, the sensible actor who always knows what’s going on within the company – both public and private. Blair plays Flavia Brent the wife to Phillip and as the actor, tends to mother Fellowes, taking his side against any who would cause him discomfort. George is spot-on in both her roles.
Nick Fitzgerald is Tim Allgood, the be-leagued stage manager for the floundering troupe. Fitzgerald plays his part as equally frustrated as the others do theirs with fear of his director thrown in. Tim is Lloyd’s whipping boy, at his complete disposal and tries his best to accommodate his director.
Steve Tarry is Selsdon Mowbray, the final member of the troupe, but by no means the least. Tarry is superb as Mowbray, as the Burglar who breaks into the Brent’s home. Mowbray is an old-time actor with a penchant for a bottle or two of the good old stuff before, during and after the performance. Keeping Mowbray away from the bottle offer some of the best choreographed and most hilarious parts of “Noises Off.”
“Noises Off” continues at The Lakewood Playhouse in the northeast section of the Lakewood Towne Center, just behind the Pierce Transit Bus Depot through May 8, each Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. with Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. There is Thursday Pay-What-You-Can performances, April 21 and an Actor’s Benefit performance Thursday, April 28; both are at 8 p.m.
For more information or reservations, call the box office at (253) 588-0042 or go online to www.lakewoodplayhouse.org.
“Noises Off” is the perfect escape vehicle for what’s troubling you, your family or the rest of the nation!
Take some time away from the farce of the political season and enjoy the actions of the nine consummate actors who compile the cast of this uproarious farce, which includes an unspeaking actor – the set! It is really one of the most important roles in the show.
Congratulations, John. You did it.