I cannot believe that I, an avid theatre-goer since Day 1, (okay, since I was about five-years-old, so since Day 1,825,) had never seen the almost-four-decades-old British comedy, Noises Off! (And until I did research for this review, I didn’t even know that it was ever also a film.) So, when I heard that the usually-classics theatre company in Pasadena, A Noise Within, was doing it, my friend Joanne and I were happy to give it a go.
First of all, we were happy to discover this place. I was a virgin to both the show and company, so I have no previous productions of theirs to compare Noises Off to. I think it was so much more enjoyable that way, going in with a totally open mind.
I had been to the old A Noise Within space once previously, but it was at least a decade ago, and it was for a party, not a show. The company was using the third floor of an interesting old building in Glendale back then. But for the past seven years, it’s been housed in a very modern (but still interesting) edifice that features a lot of open space in the actual auditorium, which is a plus. It reminded me so much of my beloved summer stock theaters in New York and New England, and I loved that feeling of being out of town. (I actually was sort-of out of town because Pasadena, especially that part of that city, is a day trip to us Westsiders!)
But they really need better air-conditioning, pronto! A few of us almost fainted from the heat, despite begging them to make it more comfortable. Audience members constantly fanning themselves during the performance is sooo distracting! (I guess that’s less distracting than someone actually passing-out, which I did witness at a different theatre recently, but still…)
Despite the totally uncomfortable temperature, and sugary-only snacks at the concession stand, we loved the show!!! I’ve honestly never heard Joanne laugh so much! (You see—it really is not about me!) The last few plays she reviewed with me were duds, so I’m grateful to this company for resurrecting my reputation as one of her most fun friends!
In case you’re one of the few other souls who’ve never seen Noises Off, it’s a frenetic British comedy. But no worries—it’s so good that it cannot even be in the same sentence as the inane oh-so-famous-in-England No Sex Please, We’re British, even though this, too, is classified as a farce. But it’s actually not truly a farce—the play-within-the-play is the farce.
There are three acts, which made me panic a bit when I found that fact out pre-curtain, because I hate sitting in one place that long, but the time flew by. The first act shows us the last rehearsal of a play, the second gives us a peek into the backstage action a few weeks later, and the the third is a late-run performance of the play. And it’s all tons of fun, (even though Act III is sort-of superfluous.)
The weird thing is that I spent more time smiling than actually laughing out loud, but I’m pretty sure that had more to do with the heat than the production. But I also understood only about two-thirds of the dialogue, which I think was a combination of the English accents and fast talking, and loud audience laughter and acoustics. (When the actors were not facing us, their words got a tiny bit muffled.) But I swear, even without getting every word, this show is excellent. And the absolutely packed house, on not opening night, enjoyed the ride. There were big guffaws with just about every line, which is quite the rarity.
It’s all so well-done. Everything about this production is spot-on. With so many actors and props and entrances and exits, and constant action, it all has to be tight, tight, tight. And it is. The entire production is a lot of work! And in this case, that blood, sweat, and tears totally succeeds.
There are no weaknesses in the cast, (and all their English accents are excellent—not one of them annoyed me—another rarity,) but Kasey Mahaffy is the stand-out. Joanne kept saying, “He’s terrific,” an assessment with which I totally concur. His lithe physicality is a thing of beauty. I don’t think I’ve seen such supple moves since early Jim Carrey.
The interesting thing is that these actors are all members of the A Noise Within company. [Note: That’s more than the name of the theatre–it’s a repertory company.] That means that they’re basically people who more often than not perform the classics, like Shakespeare and Dickens. So that they all have such impeccable comic timing is incredible to me.
If any of you have ever seen The Norman Conquests, this show reminded me somewhat of it. That one is a comedy that features six characters in one house, but shows the action that’s happening at one in three different rooms. To get the entire scenario, you have to see the show on three different nights. With Noises Off, you get the on-stage and backstage versions, with the action taking place at different times, but it’s similar in a way. Only here, we get to see both locations in one evening. (And there are a lot of doors being slammed!)
Speaking of locations, this set by Fred Kinney is excellent! No matter where you sit in the three-sided audience, you get to see everything. For once in my life, I didn’t look around the theatre, trying to figure out if there was a more advantageous seat!
This is how much I recommend this production of Noises Off—if the theatre fixes its A/C, I would go back and see it again!!! And I’ve thought that about only one other show, (Something Rotten,) outside of Matthew Bourne ballets, in probably decades!
Noises Off running through May 26, 2018
A Noise Within 3352 E. Foothill Blvd. Pasadena 626-356-3121 www.anoisewithin.org