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Flora Lynn Isaacson

Noises Off–Now through July 14

By Flora Lynn Isaacson

Melody Payne and Diego Hardy perform in Noises Off at Novato Theater Company. Photo by Jere Torkelsen.

Novato Theater Company presents Michael Frayn’s Noises Off on stage now through July 14. Carl Jordan’s fine direction, Michael Walraven’s magnificent set and the cast’s extraordinary talent make this a memorable, laugh out loud show–not to be missed!

Forty-two years ago the play premiered in London’s West End. According to The Observer, Frayn got the idea for the story when he was backstage watching Lynn Redgrave perform in a one-act play he wrote. He thought the show was actually funnier to watch from behind the stage and decided to create a farce where the audience can see what’s going on both in front of, and behind, the set. Later he admitted that staging both perspectives proved “fiendishly difficult.” The answer, of course, is a revolving set, which NTC Set Designer Michael Walraven has built with incredible skill, talent and creativity. Not only does the set revolve, but it has multiple doors, windows, stairs, British props and furniture—all central to the physical comedy.

As Act One begins, a theatrical company rehearses for their upcoming show called Nothing On–a farce. They are unprepared, missing lines and cues, mixing up their stage places and frustrating the play’s director Lloyd (Mike Pavone). Lloyd is involved with the assistant stage manager, Poppy (Rachel Kaiulani-Kennealy) but also with the dim-witted American actress, Brooke (Melody Payne) forming a love triangle. The stage manager Tim (Sky Collins) tries hopelessly to help Lloyd keep the show on track.

Because this is a “play within a play,” the cast performs dual roles–as actors in the theatrical company and their respective characters in the group’s upcoming play.

Jeffrey Biddle plays the actor Freddie whose character Philip flees to Spain to escape from the taxman at “Inland Revenue.”  Jane Harrington plays the actress Belinda whose character Flavia is Philip’s wife.

Heather Shepardson performs as both Dotty (an actress in the company) and Philip’s and Flavia’s Cockney housekeeper, Mrs. Clackett.

Diego Hardy plays the company’s lead actor Garry and his character Roger, a real estate agent interested in Philip’s and Flavia’s unoccupied home. Payne (along with her portrayal of actress Brooke) plays Vicki, who accompanies Roger to see the property.

Wood Lockhart is hilarious as the fumbling actor Selsdon playing a burglar trying to break into Philip’s home. Biddle plays a third character, a sheikh who wants to rent the house.

The cast members show incredible range playing multiple roles. Their comedic timing and great energy keep the audience amused from start to finish. There is plenty of silliness, buffoonery and horseplay in this farce–the usual slamming doors,  character’s tripping over each other, glass breaking and pants falling down–but also some unusual situations where a character kisses a cactus and a plate of sardines becomes an obsession.

Adding much to the production are perfectly timed sound effects and lighting thanks to Bruce Vieira and Frank Sarubbi. Kudos also to Kristy Arroyo (Set Painting), Walt Rugani (Set Carpenter) and Kate Leland (Costume Design).

Special thanks to Producer Electric Bill Weinberg and NTC President Marilyn Izdebski for bringing this show to production–and, with it, bringing much needed laughter into our lives.