And on we blindly stumble!
Foothill Theatre Company’s Noises Off is spot on. Michael Frayn’s farce within a farce is a showcase for nonstop dueling dialogues, slapstick high jinks, wacky characters and silly situations. This production pulls together an ace team of actors who expertly execute the comedy’s carefully controlled chaos.
This is the third time the Foothill folks have given us this English comedy (the other two played in 1987 and 1995), so it’s clear they relate to the unique Noises Off insanity.
The show has a clever premise. It starts when an actress enters the stage, begins her performance of a comedy and then flubs her stage direction. A frustrated voice from above corrects her, and we soon realize it’s the director—we’re seeing a play about a play. And the play within, a comedy called Nothing On, isn’t exactly the most polished artifact; it becomes clear that we’re witness to the slow disintegration of a dysfunctional theater troupe. But Noises Off puts the fun in dysfunctional.
The comedy is divided into thirds. The first displays the Nothing On living-room set; the second brings us around to the backside, so we can see what’s happening offstage; and the third finishes back in the original play’s set.
The opening-scene set is a two-story house entryway with numerous doors to various rooms. Nine hyper actors with eight swinging doors results in a lot of opening and closing, slamming and jamming.
The second scene takes place backstage, where you see the backside of the first scene’s set. And although there’s an audience intermission, it’s best to stay in your seat and watch the amazing scene change in which the entire set turns on a giant lazy Susan.
The second scene, which shows the backstage antics of the director, the actors and the production crew—a group of drinkers, philanderers and inept or nearly insane characters—demonstrates how well-oiled this cast is. The company is mostly in mime mode, since it seemingly doesn’t want to disturb the onstage production, and the creative choreography is the result of fine-tuned timing and tight teamwork.
The cast consists of Foothill regulars Karyn Casl, Carolyn Howarth, Sharon Winegar and Gary Alan Wright along with not-so-regulars Michael Moerman, A.J. Schuermann and Ted Barton; and newcomers Jenni Stephenson and Eric Wheeler. This talented cast is clearly having a hoot while giving the same to its appreciative audience.