Out of Control Bedlam at Lakewood PlayhousePublished in the Weekly Volcano, April 21, 2016
From left (back): Shelleigh-Mairi Ferguson, Gary Chambers, Jim Rogers, Jennifer Davy, Jonathan Bill, Ana Bury, Nick Fitzsgerald and Diana George; on couch, Steve Tarry. Photo by Tim JohnsonThere is practically an entire genre of theater about theater, typically farces about bad theater companies doing bad theater. Often these are as bad as the plays they lampoon, but there is one exception — the mother of all farces about theater: Noises Off
by Michael Frayn, now playing at Lakewood Playhouse.
Ensemble cast. Photo by Tim JohnsonHere’s the thing I’ve noticed about farces: they usually don’t wear well. See one for the first time and it might be funny; see it again and it’s just stupid. But I’ve seen Noises Off
three times as produced by three different companies, and every time I have laughed like a madman. At the opening performance at Lakewood Playhouse, the show ended with a standing ovation from a full house with screaming and whistling the likes of which I have never seen in that space.
From left – Steve Tarry as Selsdon, Ana Bury as Poppy, Shelleigh-Mairi Ferguson as Dotty, and Jim Rogers as Frederick. Photo by Tim Johnson.It’s the story of an inept theater company directed by a harried director named Lloyd (Jonathan Bill) who struggles to temper his urge to kill half his cast and who is having affairs with the assistant stage manager, Poppy (Ana Bury) and with one of the cast members, Brooke (Jennifer Davy), who pulls off a funny dumbfounded look, loses her dress in the first act and runs around in her underwear and stockings throughout the show. The director also has to contend with, among others, a drunken actor far past his prime (Steve Tarry as Selsdon Mowbray); an actor who has constant nose bleeds and is a walking disaster (Jim Rogers as Frederick Fellowes); and another, Dotty the housekeeper (Shelleigh-Mairi Ferguson), who never knows where she’s supposed to be or what to do with props.The play-within-a-play opens with a disastrous dress rehearsal less than 24 hours before opening night. The set, designed by Larry Hagerman and Dylan Twiner and built by Hagerman and Art Fick, is a two-story home with at least nine doors. It is a marvel of planning because it is almost too big for the little thrust stage space and has to turn completely around between acts — a great design. It’s a shame that the walls are of such dull unfinished wood, looking more like the interior of a barn than an upscale country home.The dress rehearsal is like a Marx Brothers movie on steroids, with props misplaced, forgotten lines, pratfalls, and wild improvisations. Playing out underneath the farce of a rehearsal are the rivalries and the love lives of the cast and crew, and the wild struggle to hide the whiskey from Selsdon.The second act takes place backstage during the opening night performance. Everything is done with silent gestures, since the cast and crew can’t make noise during the show. What we do here are the bungled lines of unseen actors on stage, while cast and crew run around backstage like chickens with their heads cut off, fighting with each other (even with an ax at one point), making fast costume changes, and entering through the wrong doors and windows.In the third act, the set is turned around again for the final performance of a play that has progressively worsened.The ensemble cast does a good job, and the real life director — not “Lloyd” but Lakewood Playhouse Artistic Director John Munn — has managed to do what “Lloyd” was unable to do: herd his troop of actors through almost three hours of beautifully choreographed chaos.Noises Off
is a play everyone should see at least once. Performances are expected to sell out, so get tickets early.Noises Off
, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through May 8,Lakewood Playhouse, 5729 Lakewood Towne Center Blvd., Lakewood, $25,
$22 military, $21 seniors and $19 students/educators, pay what you can April 21, actors’ benefit April 28, 253.588.0042