The 2018-2019 “Let Me In” season at A Noise Within (ANW) is culminating with a bang with “Noises Off,” the English farce by Michael Frayn. Much of the brilliance of the production, for me, was derived directly from the script itself. The writing is funny, sharp, and fast-paced, packed with plenty of uproarious, laugh-out-loud moments and all the slapstick and irreverence expected from a farce. To vaguely outline the plot in as spoiler-free a manner as possible: the first act teaches the audience the play within the play, ‘Nothing On’ (almost at the same time as a couple of the characters are!), and this longer first act gives us enough time to be familiar with the material so that we can appreciate when, in the mostly dialogue-free second act, they miss their cues and why. It’s an incredibly meta play in that we can easily imagine that “Noises Off” could fail as catastrophically as ‘Nothing On’ does in Act Three if the actors forgot anything in the plethora of props, entrances, and exits the script throws at them. In terms of plot and storytelling, it’s ingenious – hats off to Mr. Frayn.
The characters are all over-the-top and ridiculous, and the cast committed wholeheartedly, never missing a beat and delivering with excellent timing for the maximum effect. One of the most notable moments was when, amidst the often fast-paced banter, a short moment of silence produced a roar of laughter from the audience.
An enjoyable feature of most ANW productions is their use of aisle space, and, in this case, some of the seats, to really immerse the audience in every story told. For the first act, ‘Nothing On’ director (played by real-life co-director, Geoff Elliott) Lloyd Dallas is actually seated amongst the audience and moves from the seats onto the stage and back into various open seats. It’s a wonderful interactive moment for the audience to get closer to the action, while being authentic to directors’ need to observe from as many varied places in the performance space as possible to ensure the play looks and sounds its best from all angles.
Props (pun intended) must always go to their technical crew and set designer; the rotating set is incredible and one of the most involved sets I’ve seen from ANW.
However, the one thing I am going to quibble a bit about is the accents. While not all of the cast had perfectly consistent English, I think the most confusing part to me was the specificity of two of the actors’ accents in particular. Lloyd featured especially distinct, crisp enunciation and longer vowels, a more antiquated accent (think “The Crown”). While this could undoubtedly be a character choice given that Lloyd is one of the oldest two of the cast, Apollo Dukakis did not choose this specific sound for his portrayal of Selsdon Mowbray. (Accents from around England do vary; however, both characters used received pronunciation and Dukakis used a more modern received pronunciation than Elliott’s more traditional one.) As the costuming for the non-actor characters, Poppy, Tim, and Lloyd, seemed to harken back to the 2000s – as the play was first written in the 80s, but was rewritten in the 2000s, this seems likely – Elliott’s choice didn’t entirely make sense to me. However, perhaps more confusingly, Kasey Mahaffey’s Garry Lejeune, too, notably exhibited some of these same elongated vowels, though Mahaffey’s English was less consistent than Elliott’s, which, to the latter’s credit, remained entirely consistent. Let me be clear, though: this is a fairly small issue, and something that probably only bothered me. I mention this simply as a note; if there was anything I could change, that would be it.
I highly encourage anyone who wants a good laugh to book their tickets for “Noises Off” before it ends June 9th.
3352 E. Foothill Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91107