Saturday, November 14, 2009
L to R:Mikael Salazar (Garry), Jill Hill (Brenda), Apollo Dukakis (Selsdon), Stephen Rockwell (Freddy), Deborah Strang (Dotty), Emily Kosloski (Brooke), Shaun Anthony (Tim)
Photo Credit Craig Schwartz
Today I had to go to my bookshelf and dust off my dictionary. It was nice exercise. The thing weighs a ton.
Brilliant: fr. adj. 1. Shining brightly; sparkling. 2. Vivid; intense. 3. Very splendid or distinguished. 4. Having or showing keen intelligence, great talent or skill, etc. – n. a gem, esp. a diamond, cut in a certain way with many facets for maximum brilliance, see GEM. SYN. BRIGHT.
To use the term “brilliant” to describe A Noise Within’s current production of Michael Frayn’s play, NOISES OFF, seems a little hollow, only because from curtain to curtain in three acts its brilliance, including incredible set changes at the act breaks, are nothing short of amazing. Noises Off is… simply… Wonderful. Silly. Zany. Clever. And, just plain fun.
Geoff Elliott, directs along with his wife, Julia Rodriguez-Elliott. He also plays Lloyd Dallas the busy Brit who, along with directing Nothing On (the play ostensibly being rehearsed in preparation for its World Premier Prior To National Tour!) is also in production for Richard III (coincidentally currently running in repertory with Noises Off at A Noise Within.) Notwithstanding a lot of the use of the word Noise, Elliott and company accomplish a near miracle. Often hearing American actors attempt British accents can be quite troubling, in that they haven’t a clue as to a proper sound. Not that I know much from Bow Bells to West End, but to a person, this cast nails not only their accents, but they are all on the same page; all in the same play and each a solid contribution to the ensemble.
Farce: a noun also from the French, has many references. The appropriate definition here alludes to broad humor. To say that Frayn has captured the essence of farce is faint praise. With no less than seven doors (and a curtain… they may have run out of doors?) opening and closing in perfect timing: slamming, breaking, sticking all the while applauding themselves with grace notes of breaking glass, Noises Off should wind up on Wikipedia as a prefect definition of the term.
The basic premise is that Dotty Otley (the brilliant Deborah Strang) plays the maid, Mrs. Clackett, in a grand home belonging to the Brents, where the fun of Nothing On begins. Dotty (not Deborah) has ponyed up the funds … or part of them, to produce Nothing On, a very silly British bedroom farce, casting herself in the mordant character of the loyal and slightly doughty old retainer of the manse where all the doors are. The first act (of Noises Off as well as Nothing On) consists of a sticky technical rehearsal of Nothing On.
Interaction between the director, Dallas and his cast will bring back memories to any actor who has yearned for more attention, stopping to call for a line or to question just what his motivation might be.
Enter Garry Lejeune (the brilliant Mikael Salazar as actor Roger Tramplemain), with cutie patootie Brooke Ashton (very blonde in every sense of the word … and brilliant Emily Kosloski as Vicki) with props to juggle and the prospect of a little hanky panky in the upstairs bedroom where Roger and Vicki retire thinking they are alone in the house. No sooner have Roger and Vicki found their way to the boudoir, than immediately enter actor Frederick Fellowes (silly brilliant Stephen Rockwell as the character Philip Brent, the owner of the manse who dictates to Mrs. Clackett that he and his lovely wife, Flavia, (the actress Belinda Blair, brilliantly portrayed by ANW’s Jill Hill) are not there. They are NOT AT HOME! Of course, they are with duplicate props that coincide with the stuff that Garry and Vicki have just brought in.
Okay, it’s a farce. I’d mention the sardines, but there are too many to mention. Apropos of nothing, according to the Nothing On programme, there are more than 13.4 million sardines eaten in Great Britain every day! And, I’ve forgotten to mention Tim Allgood, the Stage Manager (Shaun Anthony, whose curtain speech at the beginning of Act III is.. well, brilliant) and the unsung Assistant Stage Manager, ANW’s Ms Lenne Klingaman as Poppy Norton-Taylor (who is really good so’s I won’t get all redundant …) who may have something going on with the director, Dallas, an affair which Tim manages to screw up because of Dallas’s having the hots for Brooke. It's complicated!
I carry on like this because Frayn’s inspired script and this excellent.. well, brilliant, production was so much fun, that I really want to convey the silliness and the great timing, even when the timing was really awful (okay, that’s ACT III of Noises Off which, I think, is ACT I of Nothing On where Stage Manager, Tim gives his terrific curtain speech) as well as the hilarious characters who literally knock themselves out in pursuit of putting up a play.
The set changes between acts are nothing short of watching the building of the pyramids before our very eyes. Oh Yes... there’s a burglar, played by Selsdon Mowbray (ANW’s brilliant Apollo Dukakis who gives new hope to actors over fifty!)
The Elliotts and their dedicated cast and crew have succeeded brilliantly and as a person of the theatre all I can say is that to miss this show is to miss an opportunity to laugh and laugh for all the right reasons. This is the sort of entertainment that, when successful, can alter the human spirit for the better. It’s a gift.
Tech credits are wonderful. Adam Lillibridge’s complex set is beautifully practical, front stage and back. Stay between the acts to see his dedicated crew make their amazing transformations. Ken Booth’s lighting intrudes in the very best of ways. Soojin Lee’s costumes, especially Vicki’s black suspenders are just great.
A final note. A Noise Within is a non-profit foundation and is currently raising funds for a new theater space in Pasadena. Tax deductible donations in any amount are welcome. Please see Noises Off and decide if this might not be a special place to make one of your end of the year contributions.
A Noise Within
234 S. Brand Blvd.
Glendale, Ca 91204
Box Office: 818 240 0910 ext. 1
In repertory with Crime and Punishment and Richard III
Through December 20, 2009
Check www.anoisewithin.org for specific production dates
Please make a note of the following activities at A Noise Within.
A NOISE WITHIN ANNOUNCES FOUR SPECIAL EVENTS
Two “Champagne and Sardines”
Post-Performance Receptions Slated for
Michael Frayn's NOISES OFF
on Saturday, November 28, 8 P.M. and Friday, December 18, 2009, 8 P.M.
Two “White Russians and Discussions”
Post-Performance Receptions for
Friday, November 20, 8 P.M.
(Featuring Ed Bacon, Rector at All Saints Church in Pasadena),
and Saturday, December 5, 2009, 8 P.M.
(Featuring Cast Members)
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Sheila Tousey and Tonantzin Carmelo
Photo Credit Tony Dontscheff Photography
Less than perfect, Carbon Black, currently at the Autry Heritage Museum produced by Native Voices under the direction of Randy Reinholz (Choctaw) challenges the audience to go beyond obvious production obstacles and get to the heart of its message. Playwright, Terry Gomez (Comanche), has imagined her play set in a small apartment somewhere near Albuquerque. Carbon (Inky to his mom) Black (Michael Drummond) is a bright thirteen year old kid who lives with his agoraphobic single mother, Sylvie (Sheila Tousey: Menominee, Stockbridge Munsee). Evidently, Inky’s mom has been physically attacked in the past and the resultant trauma has her holed up for three years; on public assistance, slipping in and out of reality.
Carbon has missed too many days of school and is called to his counselor’s office, the lovely Lisa Yellowtree (Tonantzin Carmelo: Tongva Kumeyaay), to discuss the issues of his truancy. Enter Bodell Tucker (over the top Stephan Wolfert with a limp), vice principal of Inky’s school, to harass Miss Yellowtree and berate Inky for his wicked ways. Interestingly, Wolfert in his program notes mentions seeing a production of Richard III and being influenced to abandon his military career for a life in the theatre. The irony of this is that his choice for his characterization of Tucker is that he has adopted a club foot and withered hand, apparently an homage to Richard. I mention this only because it was such a distraction to the flow of the production that for director Reinholz to have allowed it seems a questionable decision.
The issues of the underclass, mental illness and its effects on its victims is the message of the play which, in spite of this delivery system’s failures really ought to be examined. Gomez includes light polemics regarding stereotyping Native Americans and prejudice. A charming Native American tune is included by Carmelo in her counsel to Inky and later to Sylvie, that, at once, soothes and swathes the production in it’s heritage.
Unfortunately, the show itself, applauded heartily at every scene break by an enthusiastic opening night audience, is marginally successful as a theatrical production. The auditorium at The Autry is less than theatre friendly, but within the parameters of what they have to work with, Gomez’s message is a cry for attention that our society must eventually heed.
Native Voices has been in production for ten years, presenting theatrical fare representing Native American values and issues.
Native Voices at The Autry
Thursday through Sunday
November 7 through November 22, 2009
Tickets and Information 866 468-3399