This may be the funniest farce ever written.
Oh, those touring shows. If it isn’t one damned problem, it’s another – especially when it’s a low-level company in tech rehearsal for a cheesy show called “Nothing On” – and nothing is working right. Lines are botched, cues don’t work right, props wander off, and tomorrow is opening night, so there’s no time for a dress rehearsal.
It’s Michael Frayn’s 1982 farce “Noises Off,” making fun of all things theatrical, in a hilarious production through May 20 at Lamb’s Players Theatre. Robert Smyth directs this play-within-a-play, illustrating some of the most outrageous disasters that could happen (and do, though not usually all on one night) onstage.
In the first act, it’s evident that this group is not ready for opening. Dotty (Deborah Gilmour Smyth) has an unrewarding relationship with three props used in her first entrance: a telephone, a newspaper and a plate of sardines. She can’t recall which she takes and which she leaves – and shows only a passing acquaintanceship with her lines.
One character, Freddy (Ross Hellwig) can’t keep his pants up. Someone spitefully ties Garry’s feet together, so that actor Brian Mackey has to hop both up and down dogleg stairs, and later fall down them.
Between acts (there are three), the audience can watch Mike Buckley’s set be turned around, to change the audience’s view from front of the house to backstage and back again.
The second act takes place a month later. The show hasn’t improved much, but the audience’s backstage view now includes madness, even fisticuffs.
By the third act (two months later), the audience view has changed back to the front of the house, the run is coming to an end and the production has completely gone off the tracks, with jealous rages and revenge attempts (even including an axe), and lots of ad-libbing.
This show requires nine actors willing to play this goofy farce for all it’s worth, and director Robert Smyth has them in this group. Credit Jordan Miller for his expert (and hilarious) fight choreography.
Fran Gercke plays the exasperated director Lloyd to a T (and his “god” voice as we watch the painfully inept rehearsal in Act 1 is wonderful).
I almost didn’t care what Jessica John’s Belinda said. I was too busy coveting Jeanne Reith’s spectacular costume for her. But rest assured, this fine actress is up to the challenge of her character.
Charlene Wilkinson is fine as blank-slate Brooke, the ingénue probably hired for something other than her acting talent. She inspires giggles by losing a contact lens several times during the show.
Cynthia Gerber is excellent as harried stage manager Poppy.
Jim Chovick is a hoot as a whiskey-guzzling burglar who can’t remember his lines but always knows where the booze is.
Omri Schein almost runs away with the show as Tim, the show’s handyman, and general understudy.
“Noises Off” is probably the funniest farce ever written. Yep, these characters are stereotypes. Yes, the action is frantic and over the top. And oh, yes, they are very, very funny.
“Noises Off” plays through May 20, 2018, at Lamb’s Players Theatre, 1142 Orange Avenue, Coronado.
Tuesday through Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 4 and 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm.
Tickets: (619) 437-6000 or lambsplayers.org