Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Noises Off shows in three acts how things go disastrously wrong over a two month period for a theatre company performing a comedy called Nothing On across several cities in England. First we see the unprepared cast the night before they open, then we witness the backstage antics of the cast as romantic jealousy sets in, and the third act displays the events two months into their run of how everything has gone completely off the rails
As I mentioned in my recent review of the Paradise Valley Community College production, I'm not the biggest fan of this play due to the fact that besides the humorous backstage shenanigans there isn't much to the plot and virtually no character development. It's funny at times but not much more.
Seeing a second production of the play hasn't changed my thoughts on the shortcomings in the plot and the lack of depth in the characters of Noises Off. However, Frayn does do an exceptional job of structuring his comedy to play up the humorous events. By first showing us, in act one, how Nothing On is supposed to play out, we are able to see the inept nature of the play within a play. Frayn then repeats that act twice, first backstage and then at one of the company's final performances, so we can see how the onstage and backstage antics of the cast achieve devastating results compared to how Nothing On is actually supposed to be performed. This all adds to the enjoyment of the play.
Theater Works' cast does fairly well with the comic requirements of the play. As Garry, Dylan Kim gets the most range to playfrom a calm tone in act one to frustration and jealousy in the second act, and then nervousness and the need to frantically improvise in act three. Kim does very well in essaying all of these emotions with comical facial expressions and gestures. He also throws himself into the part and delivers an expert fall that is perfectly staged by fight coordinator Brian Maticic to have both comic and realistic results. As Lloyd, the Noises On director, David Chorley is good with the character's constant sarcastic tone, and shows him as a delusional madman in the second act. As Dotty, the slightly older actress who can't quite get her lines or staging right, Toni Jourdan evokes a daffy nature that aligns well with the character. We don't quite see much difference between her on stage and off stage roles, though it still works.
Scott Hyder is very good as Frederick, an actor who continually questions his character's motivations, and Janine Colletti instills the beautiful but untalented actress Brooke with a fair amount of empty headedness. However, the decision for Colletti to portray Brooke's acting abilities as horrifically bad for the first two acts and then have some semblance of decent acting skills in act three doesn't quite work. We see no natural progression in the second act of her developing skills or any horrified looks from her castmates to her appalling talent, and there is nothing in the script that alludes to her bad acting. Colletti is still funny in the part but her portrayal just comes across as somewhat uneven. Kathleen Cameron does well as the sane moderator of the group who tries to hold things together and smooth over the issues that her castmates have with each other. In smaller parts, Amy Garland is exceptional as the Poppy the stage manager (who is also the jilted lover of Lloyd), and Bruce Laks and Glenn Parker provide several moments of levity amid the craziness as Selsdon and Tim, respectively.
Except for a slightly slow pace at points, Richard Powers Hardt's direction is adept and plays up the fun nature of the script. Brett Aiken's set design is exceptional and his lighting works well, especially in act two when we see both the backstage and onstage areas. The numerous props by Kimberly Powers Hardt and Landis Maren York's colorful costumes deliver plenty of fun to the proceedings.
Noises Off provides a playground for actors to stretch and display their comic chops. While I have some issues with Frayn's script and a few quibbles with the Theater Works production, there are several humorous moments and a cast who throw themselves into the play with sheer abandonment.
Noises Off runs through October 23rd, 2016, at Theater Works at 8355 West Peoria Avenue in Peoria. Tickets can be ordered at theaterworks.org or by calling 623-815-7930.
Playwright: Michael Frayn