‘Noises Off’ at Novato Theater Company Playhouse – Delightful Theatre Chaos

(L-R) Heather Shepardson, Diego Hardy, Mike Pavone, Melody Payne. Photo by Bill Weinberg.

Noises Off is offbeat farce that serves up its fare with the joy of life that is both fun and delightfully unpredictable.  It’s the excitement of a three-ring circus in Leicester Square in the 1970’s, complete with the costumes and music of the time. 

Imagine a cast of good actors perfecting a series of acts that fit together like a fine watch. The pieces are rough but manageable, and the work is nearing the end of a long rehearsal.  We join the cast and crew for this final rehearsal before opening to an audience.  The play our cast is perfecting is the world premiere of “Nothing On:” A play within a play. 

Lines are forgotten but we can all hope this last push carries the play through the rough spots into the perfect performance.  Surprisingly, the rough spots get rougher and the lines are never on time and the fine watch slows to a crawl while the actors try to make it work. 

The fun begins with the sardines in the first scene. Mrs. Clackett (played by Heather Shepardson) has had it with the sardines and is ready to take the phone and leave the sardines. Loyd, the director of our play within our play (played by Mike Pavone), corrects her and tells her to leave the phone and take the sardines.  Such memorable simplicity can only get worse, and it does very quickly.

(L-R) Heather Shepardson, Diego Hardy, Jane Harrington. Photo by Bill Weinberg.

What we do know is that the audience gets the banter and appreciates the fine-tuned synchrony of the doors and actors falling over each other in a circus of hilarious plots gone awry.  The expanding schadenfreude of the play has the audience in tears as the cast moves through damage control on all aspects of their devolving world.

Director Carl Jordan has created a masterpiece of choreographed routines that surprise us all with the precision needed to pull them off.  There are seven doors that work to accent our farce as the three-ring circus continues.  Jordan does the timing perfectly to make the moves work.  He also chose the music for this production to match the time and mood of the scenes. 

(L-R) Mike Pavone, Diego Hardy, Rachel Ka’iulani Kennealy, Wood Lockhart, Melody Payne. Photo by Bill Weinberg.

Michael Walraven created an amazing set.  This prize fills the stage and rotates smoothly to reveal the backstage antics in Act 2.  The fireplace is lit through the play while the flower garden comes alive with color throughout the show. The doors all work (mostly) and the two-story set handles the crises gracefully. Producer Bill Weinberg has done a yeoman’s job of pulling everything together behind the scenes. We forget how much a producer really does behind the money.

Melody Payne (playing Brooke) and Diego Hardy (playing Garry) work well together to set the mood of frustration and best laid plans that never work out.  They are the sexy side of our story (it is British, after all) and we suffer with their antics. Jane Harrington (playing Belinda) and Jeffrey Biddle (playing Frederick/Philip) come home to the old homestead to find a breath of fresh air in their own bed, but alas, they are instantly involved in the manic evolution of the play and get no satisfaction. 

(L-R) Melody Payne, Diego Hardy. Photo by Bill Weinberg.

Poppy (played by Rachel Ka’iulani Kennealy) is the on-stage stage manager of our farce.  She tries to keep a level head while the world on stage collapses into chaos, but she is eventually brought into the “family” and contributes to the hijinks as the story progresses. Tim (played by Sky Collins) is the carpenter and fixit guy in the play, but he can only try to save the others as they devolve away from plans. Wood Lockhart (playing Selsdon) has been a featured actor in the Bay Area for many years and it is a pleasure to see him grace the rolesof Selsdon and the burglar with his wry humor.

Michael Frayn has said: “I haven’t come to the theater to hear about other people’s problems.  I’ve come to be taken out of myself, and, preferably, not put back again.”  This is certainly true with this “Noises Off” production.  The fine acting and superb set create the perfect match for Frayn’s mad script.

“Noises Off” continues at the Novato Theatre Company Playhouse at 5420 Nave Drive, Novato through July 14, 2024

For further information and reservations: https://www.novatotheatercompany.org/

Rating: ****

“Noises Off,” by Michael Frayn, produced by Novato Theater Company.  Director: Carl Jordan, Producer: Bill Weinberg, Set Designer: Michael Walraven, Light Designer: Frank Sarubbi, Sound Design: Bruce Vieira, Costumer Designer: Kate Leland, Stage Manager: Maureen Scheuenstuhl, Props: China Lamers, Photographs: Bill Weinberg. Cast: Jeffrey Biddle as Frederick Fellowes/Philip, Sky Collins as Tim Allgood, Diego Hardy as Garry Lejune/Roger, Jane Harrington as Belinda Blair/Flavia, Rachel Ka’iulani-Kennealy as Poppy Norton-Taylor, Wood Lockhart as Selsdon Mowbray/The Burglar, Mike Pavone as Lloyd Dallas, Melody Payne as Brooke Ashton/Vicki, Heather Shepardson as Dotty Otley/Mrs. Clackett.


Author: Gary Gonser

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