NOISES OFFBy Michael Frayn
Directed by Kara - Lynn Vaeni
Assistant Director – Josh LeBlanc
Scenic Design – Jeffrey Schmidt
Costume Design – Susan Yanofsky
Lighting Design – Aaron Johansen, Lindsay Silva
Sound Design – Mason York
Fight Choreographer – Jeff Collangelo
Props Team – Ana Chavez, Isa Flores
Stage Manager – Lauren E. Volz*
Production Assistant – Kennady Smith
Running Crew – Andrew Nicolas, Daniel Hap
Garry LeJeune – Tadeo Martinez
Dotty Otley – Kristin McCollum
Lloyd Dallas – Michael Federico*
Belinda Blair – Chris Sanders*
Frederick Fellowes – Ashley Wood*
Brooke Ashton – Catherine D. DuBord*
Tim Allgood – Mac Welch
Selsdon Mowbray – Adrian Churchill
Poppy Norton-Taylor – Robin Clayton**
* Member of Actor’s Equity Association
** Equity membership Candidate
Reviewed Performance: 12/2/2019
Reviewed by Ann Saucer, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Noises Off traces the travails of the director, cast, and crew of a British farce, as their rocky production weaves its way through a Texas tour. A program for the play-within-a-play, “Nothing On” by the fictional “Robin Housemonger,” is included within the real Noises Off program. Noises Off treats us to the same opening act from “Nothing On” three times over, but at different times during the play’s run. The first time is the dress rehearsal, in which some of the actors know their parts better than others, prompting the harried Director Lloyd Dallas, played convincingly by Michael Federico, to careen from one arrogant hissy fit to another. Federico’s delivery of some fairly overbearing dialogue (“And God said, it’s terrible”) is pitch perfect.
As the action commences, Dotty Otley (Kristin McCollum) assumes an appropriately comic British accent as Dotty plays the hairbrained servant in “Nothing On.” In the play-within-a-play, Dotty overstays her remit to watch the telly and chow down on grilled sardines, but a Casanova played by Garry LeJeune (Tadeo Martinez), thinking the manor empty, enters with his sexy paramour played by Brooke Ashton (Catherine D. DuBord). But then the owners, played by Belinda Blair (Chris Sanders) and Frederick Fellowes (Ashley Wood), sneak in to celebrate their anniversary. The owners are tax cheats who are not supposed to be in the country another night, and the “Nothing On” farce is driven by the owner’s instruction to the housekeeper to keep their presence a secret.
The farce-within-the-farce is itself funny, if deliberately overwrought, and features a series of rapid-fire misunderstandings as the characters narrowly bypass each other, get freaked out over mysterious noises and moved props, and ultimately confront a burglar cum long lost dad.
As director Lloyd Dallas yells his way through the dress rehearsal, we get a glimpse of what drives the play: these people are seriously dysfunctional. Most of the cast and crew of “Nothing On” have quirks, or even debilitating foibles and faults, that inevitably emerge. The director cannot keep it zipped, and his philandering with cast and crew prompts comic fits of jealousy, introducing increasingly fractious problems affecting the tour.
For the second “Nothing On” act, we the audience are seeing the animated backstage escapades, after the set has been turned backwards during intermission. At this point the show is well enough into its run that no one in the cast spends a second getting into character, and they know their cues, even if the stage manager Tim (Mac Welch) and his assistant Poppy (Robin Clayton) continually misinform the audience in overdone dulcet tones. Director Lloyd Dallas is able to take a break from his next production because the eponymous Richard III is getting fitted for a back brace. He instructs the stage manager Tim, whom we first met in a state of comic sleep deprivation, to deliver whiskey and flowers to Brooke, without Poppy seeing the flowers and without Selsdon Mowbray (Adrian Churchill) snatching the booze.
What could go wrong? The jealous fighting, broken hearts, medical revelations, pranks, pratfalls, and whiskey grabs are extremely well orchestrated, and because we know how "Nothing On" is supposed to play out, the mishaps are all the funnier.
And just as the audience thinks that the missed costume changes, tied shoelaces, and overall mayhem could not take the run of "Nothing On" any further off the rails, the set changes back for the third act. A drunk Dotty destroys all of the important props, and the performance goes downhill from there, with ever desperate ad libs. It is all extraordinarily clever and funny.
The Noises Off cast is exemplary. As the graceful and classy Belinda Blair, Chris Sanders plays the only character who is fully functional and consistently helpful. She keeps reminding the director during the dress rehearsal that poor Tim hasn’t slept in 48 hours. Belinda sweetly calls everyone “love,” and we see the wheels working in her head as she tries to keep everything together—a task that is ultimately futile. Sanders does a beautiful job with the part.
Catherine D. DuBord probably racks up the most of many laughs for her continual calisthenics: her leading lady character cannot stop exercising, and her various and sundry contortions are hilariously executed. She excels at physical comedy, and she and Martinez ultimately deliver sophisticated slapstick. I mean the type of slapstick where you hope they are not hurt.
In the first act, Garry, played by the hunky Martinez, was a stand out for his apparent professional competence. He seemingly effortlessly pivoted from a charming Spanish accent to his character’s clipped British delivery. Only in the third act, when the play-within-a-play goes off the rails live, thus requiring improvisation, is Garry’s weakness exposed: when not speaking lines from the script, he reverts to a Spanish accent in panic, and the ping-pong effect is very funny.
As the beautiful older actress carrying on an affair with a younger man, McCollum is Absolutely Fabulous—she reminded us of the glorious Jennifer Saunders. Her inebriation scenes are masterfully executed, and she is particularly hilarious via her drunken facial expressions.
Ashley Wood is handsome and dashing as Frederick, a distinguished and otherwise competent actor who suffers from unfortunate bouts of squeamishness. His fainting spells are well executed. Adrian Churchill is wonderfully bumbling as the hearing-impaired alcoholic Selsdon Mowbray. Welch does a great job with Tim's extreme sleep deprivation in the first act, and as the hapless victim of Dallas' impossible demands in the second. Robin Clayton's Poppy is earnest and sweet, and the performance succeeds in getting the audience on her character's side.
The well designed costumes are clever. Brooke Ashton’s outfit is particularly impressive, not to mention funny. It is a racy hot pink and black confection, rounded out with stockings and a garter belt, all of which miraculously stay in place throughout DuBord’s physical feats of motion, contortion and acrobatics. I have come to expect functionally and visually amazing sets from Theatre Three, and in this production, we are able to witness a set change: the two-story set is turned inside out before our eyes. The elaborate set recreates an English country manor, complete with Royal Family commemorative plates on the floral wallpaper, Queen Anne furniture, decorative banister rails, and veneer paneled doors. It is a wonderful recreation of a theatre set.
It is metaphysically impossible for Theatre Three to beat the props from its production of Raptured (an indescribable collection of sex toys; sorry if you missed it). Nonetheless, the props here are an important part of the physical comedy, and many are originally constructed (including different versions of grilled sardines on a plate). The lighting and sound design are also first rate.
This wickedly clever play must be enjoyed at the professional level because of the split-second timing required for the fast-paced comedy. As the Director’s Notes explain, this play includes a payoff fifty-nine pages of script later, and this works. Noises Off is another phenomenal production at Theater Three! You deserve a laugh this holiday season, and Noises Off is just the ticket.
November 29 – December 22, 2019; Thursdays at 7: 30 p.m.; Fridays at 8:00 p.m.; Saturdays at 8:00 p.m.; Sundays at 2:30 p.m.; Hooky Matinee - Wednesday, December 11th at 2:00 p.m.; Saturday Matinee – December 21st at 2:30 p.m.
2800 Routh Street, #168
Dallas, Texas 75201
For information and Tickets call 214 871 3300 or go to https://www.theatre3dallas.com/shows-tickets/.