Noises Off: Farce by Michael Frayn. Directed by Susi Damilano. San Francisco Playhouse, 450 Post St. Floor 2M, San Francisco, CA (415) 677-9596 or www.sfplayhouse.org. March 21- May 18, 2017.
Noises Off (and the actors) bounces off the walls at San Francisco Playhouse Rating:
Producing a farce requires split second timing and much of the action is determined by the whims and skill of the director. Seasoned director Susi Damilano has elected to emphasize the physicality of farce at the expense of not highlighting the entendres and double entendres that populate the script. It worked very well and by the end of the third act the audience was in hysterics especially about plates of sardines that are an elemental part of the plot.
Noises Off is about a play within a play with marginally competent actors doing a sex farce called Nothing On. Lloyd Dallas (Johnny Moreno) is a pretentious second-rate director who is diddling stage manager Poppy (Monica Ho) understudy for the female roles and ingénue Brooke Ashton (Monique Hafen). Dotty Otley (welcome back Kimberly Richards) is a forgetful aging actress dating jealous actor Garry Leheune (Patrick Russell) who never can finish a sentence. Frederick [Freddy] Fellows (Craig Marker) who fears violence, often gets nose bleeds and questions the meanings of his lines. Sensible, peace maker Belinda Blair (Nanci Zoppi)) who has the hots for Freddy. Over worked stage manager Tim Allgood (Greg Ayers) who must understudy, fix the set and run Lloyd’s errands on top of his usual duties. Finally, elder alcoholic, hard of hearing Selsdon Mowbray is (Richard Louis James).
Any good farce must have at least four doors. The Nothing On set has seven doors, a two-story stair case and a French door window. Add to this, trousers that fall down, door handles that fall off, props that get misplaced and an increasing animosity building up within the cast of the play within a play and you have utter chaos. It is hoped the company has good health insurance since the physicality of the last act is utter chaos. There is almost complete lack of control without any cast member missing a cue or line or action.
Richards does wonders with her role extracting the last bit of humor using the prop plates of sardines, a telephone cord and newspaper. Craig Marker would win an Olympic medal if they gave awards for running around with his pants around his ankles. Patrick Russell must play the ineffectual sex-pot while hobbling with shoe laces tied and taking a pratfall down two flights of stairs. Greg Ayers as the much put upon stage manager, understudy, repair man and gofer is perfect in his under played performance. Monique Hafen, who usually plays the leads in musicals now is clothe in pink undergarments for most of the show with dead pan dialog is absolutely perfect. Nanci Zoppi’s unappreciated role as conciliator is an adequate foil for the turmoil blowing up around her. Moreno hams it up as the director but Richard Louis James as the loveable alcoholic who makes inappropriate entrances and exits in the play within a play is a joy to watch.
Scenic designer George Maxwell has created the front and back of a multi-level set on a revolving stage that in itself worth the price of admission. Damilano earns accolades for keeping chaos in check and inserting clever directorial conceits high lighting the action.
Running time is about 2 hours and 20 minutes with an intermission between acts one and two.
Cast: Greg Ayers, Tim Allgood; Monique Hafen, Brooke Ashton; Monica Ho, Poppy Norton-taylor; Richard Louis James, Selsdon Mowbray; Craig Marker, Frederick Fellowes; Johnny Moreno, Lloyd Dallas; Kimberly Richards, Dotty Otley; Patrick Russell, Garry Lejeune; Nanci Zoppi, Belinda Blair.
Creative Team: Michael Frayn, Playwright; Susi Damilano, Director; George Maxwell, Scenic Designer; Mark Hueske Thomas, Lighting Designer; Cliff Caruthers, Sound Designer; Abra Berman, Costume Designer; Jacquelyn Scott, Properties Designer; Lauren English, Casting Director; Bebe Lagrua, Associate Casting Director; Alicia Lerner, Stage Manager; Mike “Miguel” Martinez, Fight Choreographer; Kimberly Mohne Hill, Dialect Coach.
Kedar Adour, MD
Courtesy of www.theatreworldim2.com
The cast of the farce “Nothing On” muddles through an ill-fated performance. (From left: Monique Hafen, Richard Louis James, Kimberly Richards, Greg Ayers, Nanci Zoppi).