Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Lamb's “Noises Off”: “Don’t You Love Farce?”

Michael Frayn’s 1982 “Noises Off”, (a British sex farce) currently playing at Lamb’s Players Theatre in Coronado through May 20th has all the ingredients necessary to be the hit its already lauded to be by critics, fans of the theatre and audience members, especially on the night I attended.

It’s a farce; it’s loud and it’s side splitting funny, at times. To love farce, patience and perseverance are needed to endure the door slamming, which is essential, as is the hysterical, over the top behavior beyond any logical reasoning.

Keep in mind farce isn’t about logical reason. It’s about repetition, which makes farce, farcical because by definition farce is about “absurdity, slapstick and exaggeration”

The plot in any farce is less than significant in the scheme of things because when all is said and done, the outcome of the play is judged on whether or not all participants are still standing at plays end.
Deborah Gilmour Smyth, Brian Mackey, Ross Hellwig, Jessica John, Charlene Eilkinson (standing in background)
That they were barley on opening night of “Nothing On” the play within the play, in Lamb’s production under the direction of Robert Smyth and choreographer/ass. director Jordan Miller says volumes.

Its in three acts. In the first act or the set up we meet the characters of the touring show “Nothing On”.  They are in tech rehearsal. If you know anything about theatre you can tell from a glance that they are clearly not ready for prime time.

Fran Gercke, Deborah Gilmour Smyth, Jim Chovick (back) and Jessica John
“Nothing On” is not a vey good play to begin with. It’s about tax evasion, sardines (yes sardines) real and imagined affairs and a director, Lloyd Dallas ready to tear his hair out, a disappearing, deaf as a coot alcoholic and would be thief, lost contact lenses, dropped drawers, and an out of control assistant stage manager who thinks the director is in love with her.

Mrs. Clackett/Dotty (Deborah Gilmour Smyth) is in charge of Belinda and Frederick’s (Jessica John and Ross Hellwig) house while they are on holiday. Young Brooke (Charlene Wilkerson) plays Vicki, the bimbo girlfriend of Garry (Brian Mackey) a real estate salesperson. They find themselves in Fred and Belinda’s house for a little romp in one of the bedrooms hopefully before the rest of the crew arrives.
Brian Mackey and Deborah Gilmour Smyth
They think no one is home and will have the house to themselves.  SURPRISE! Belinda and Fred sneak home hoping to escape the tax man and for some much needed R&R only to find Brooke and Garry running about like banshees. Chaos ensues and a door slamming junket rages on that’s side splitting.

Poppy (Cynthia Gerber) is the assistant stage manager who is blamed for just about everything  blurts that she’s pregnant with Lloyds baby. Oy.

Selsdon (Jim Chocik) likes to have a nip or two or three between his time on stage and waiting in the wings. 

Lloyd Dallas (Francis Gercke) is the director who is trying to hold his motley group together and is carrying on extra affairs with Poppy, Dotty and Brooke while planning for his next directorial job staging Richard III.

In Act II Mike Buckley’s huge set is turned around while we see the mishigas and craziness from a backstage perspective. We can see and hear the actors on stage somewhat but the fun is in watching the antics of the actors backstage as they wait to go on stage.

Fran Gercke, Omri Schein, Deborah Gilmour Smyth and RossHelwig 
Some pretty raunchy and very funny stuff happens while the actors are waiting their cues. Between all the hysterical running to and fro up and down stairs, in and out of rooms and misunderstood conversations, the play within the play now on stage is headed for disaster. The actors are also on the verge of hating one another.

Act III takes place a month later and the tour has about run its course. We are now looking at the front of house and watching a performance of “Nothing On”, the same performance we saw during the tech only this time the scene deconstructs and all hell breaks loose while the actors lose it.

They can’t remember their lines. Brooke can’t find her contact (it seems to be just in one eye), Selsdon is drinking more than ever, the actors are at each others throats. Lloyd is after stage manager Tim (funny man Omri Schein) to get some flowers for Brooke. The scenery starts to fall apart, costumes (Jeanne Reith) are manhandled and the unruly becomes the norm. It’s quite funny and clever to see the deterioration and roll back of the act unfold.

Smyth has assembled his go to actors including Francis Gercke (last seen in “Company with Henry and Tom”), Jessica John (“The Explorers Club), Brian Mackey (“The Explorers Club”) and Omri Schein (“The Explorers Club”).

Other regulars filling out the excellent cast finds Jim Chovick’s rough and gravely voiced Selden showing up unannounced after the whole lot of them searched under every bed for him. 

Cynthia Gerber’s Poppy, one third of the Lloyd, Poppy, Brooke troika is in a constant state of consternation.

Deborah Gilmour Smyth is her professional best as the harried and hassled housekeeper running around with plates of sardines spilling over into and onto her everything. 
Jessica John and Charlene Wilkinson
One of the funniest scenes is Brian Mackey’s shtick hopping around the set, up and down stairs all while his shoelaces are tied together. It’s brilliant. It’s the little touches that put this “Noises Off” over the top, not that Frayn needed much help.

“Noises Off” will tickle your funny bone but take care to ask for seats in the center of the house where a full view of set and players can best be appreciated.


See you at the theatre.

Dates: Through May 20th
Organization: Lamb’s Players Theatre
Phone: 616-437-6000
Production Type: Farce
Where: 1142 Orange Ave, Coronado, CA. 92118
Ticket Prices: Start at $24.00
Web: lambsplayers.org
Photo: Ken Jacques

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