If you are familiar with Michael Frayn's hysterical comedy spoof, Noises Off, then you know that it is the walking definition of Murphy's Law as it effects the theater. That law is, "Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong." And in this riotous send-up, offered by Theatre In The Park, that is exactly what happens, as everything goes to pieces during the rehearsal and touring run of a sex farce called "Nothing On."
We meet the cast and crew of "Nothing On" during their last rehearsal before opening night. Dotty (Joanna V. Herath), who plays Mrs. Clackett the housemaid in the show, is financing this run in the hope of getting a little nest egg to hold her over in her impending retirement. She's a bit of a ditz, but that's okay; her heart's in the right place. She is onstage during act 1 when she is stopped cold by the voice of Lloyd (D. Anthony Pender), the director, who is trying to straighten her out on what prop is to go with her, where. As they discuss the situation, Gary (Rob Rainbolt) and Brooke (Sarah Bousquet), who play the show's sexy leads, Roger and Vicki, make their entrance. Brooke is a space cadet who has extreme trouble with her contact lenses, and Gary is a rough and tumble young actor who cannot finish a sentence and who also has his eye on Dotty, with whom he is involved. All of this is being overseen by Poppy (Lauren Flynn), the stage manager, who has been, until recently, Lloyd's main squeeze. That is, of course, up until he threw her over for Brooke.
As act 1 progresses, we meet Philip (Brook North) and Flavia (Staci Sabarski), who play the owners of the house, Frederick and Belinda Brent. Philip is a dense soul who cannot do anything right, it seems; and Flavia is the one with her ear to the ground about the cast and crew; she knows everything there is to know about everybody. Tim (George M. Kaiser), the techie, who has been up straight for the past 48 hours, is on hand to keep things running smoothly, and he spends a lot of time looking for Selsdon (Randall Stanton), the aging rue' who plays the bandit in this little farce. Selsdon has a bit of a drinking problem, and much is made of keeping the ubiquitous bottle of booze out of the wrong, that is Selsdon's, hands.
This play follows the tour of the show to two stops along the road. The rehearsal is act one, the second act is at a stop along the tour, and the third act is at the final stop on the tour. In each scene we see a repeat of act 1 of "Nothing On." The brilliance of this show is that, during act two, we see the performance not from the house but from backstage. Personalities have been clashing during the run and all is not running smoothly. This is where part two of Murphy's Law comes into play: "If more than one thing can go wrong simultaneously, it will." The first act of the show is massacred from backstage. Actor attacks actor, Lloyd upsets both his current and past girlfriends, Tim runs back and forth between backstage and the local flower shoppe, booze is passed from hand to hand in an effort to keep Selsdon sober, and a fire axe plays a major role in the festivities. This is a hilarious and fast-paced act and you need to pay close attention or you will miss something.
By the end of the run, blood is running high and all of the actors are ready to walk. Fortunately, this is the last stop on the tour. The entire cast is on tenterhooks and each is hoping that these final few performances will go smoothly. Fear not; there is not a chance of that happening. As accident upon accident continues to plague the show, more and more seemingly impossible things happen to make this a comedy of errors, and by the end of act 1, the entire cast has had it and begs pitifully, "Blackout!"
This is an ensemble work in every sense of the word. Each person has a set course to run, interacting with each of the others in a series of misevents that keeps us in stitches. Split-second timing must be kept up at all times, most especially toward the end of the show, when actors are tiring and hijinx are at a high. Rob Rainbolt earns himself spontaneous applause as we see him tumble down the staircase in act three; microscopically well-timed bits seem to go off without a hitch; and by the end of act three, we are tired, as the madcap brouhaha onstage has kept us laughing helplessly since opening the first act.
Theatre in the Park's Ira David Wood IV, son of Artistic Director IDW3, directs Noises Off masterfully and with a crackerjack team of comedians. The massive set pivots neatly on a fulcrum during each intermission, earning itself "oohs" and "ahhs" as it goes off without a hitch. This team is tight, and the show comes off beautifully, artistically and technically. If you want a true summer distraction, call now to get your tickets for Noises Off. It's a treat you won't want to miss.
The show runs through June 26. For details. see the sidebar.