KPBS AIRDATE: JUNE 23, 1993
You know what farce sounds like? Frequently, like this. (sound of slamming doors)
On the small, shallow stage of the North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach, there are seven doors and a double window. That’s enough for a zany cast of nine to slam themselves into oblivion, and bring the house down, to boot.
Michael Frayn’s manic comedy, “Noises Off,” is frequently done, but often not well. This production is impeccable. The timing, so crucial in farce, is flawless. From flying sardines, to dropped trousers, from slaps and slams and eye-pokes to disguises and surprises, director Tom McCorry’s managed mayhem is nothing short of delirious. If the aisles in the theater were only wider, there’d be a host of audience members rolling in them.
The play is the pinnacle of inspired silliness. We follow a third-rate traveling theatre company, doing the backwoods of Britain. The first act is a Murphy’s Law kind of evening, the final dress rehearsal before the opening of a dreadful, goofball comedy, “Nothing On.”. It’s hard to tell whether there’s more bedroom farce going on in front of — or behind — the scenes. In the second act, the set gets turned around 180 degrees, and we watch the buffoonery from backstage. Wear loose clothes; this is seam-splitting insanity.
By act three, the company has really lost it; it’s the last performance of a two-month tour and there’s so much hostility, jealousy and sheer exhaustion that absolutely everything goes wrong, but for us, it’s all very, very right.
The ensemble is exemplary. There’s not a weak link in the never-ending chain of characters and events. Eric Medlin is uproarious with his dangling participles, hair-trigger temper and adolescent revenge tactics. He’s a foot-stomping, elbow-jamming, cactus-wielding menace. As the director, Lloyd Dallas, Tim West gets so incensed with his cast, so downright red-faced, I was sure he was going to pop a blood vessel. If he was close, several people in the audience were even closer — about to bust a gut, if not a vessel.
As a bumbling, stumbling, aging alkie actor, Dan Grossbard is a hoot, and Lara Hope is delicious as the mindless hardbody Brooke, who loses her contact lenses even when they’re in her eyes. Prudence Davison wins the British accent award, but everybody is pretty comfortable and convincing in dialect.
The tech team provides ripping backup. McCorry and company deserve a medal. And someone in your life deserves a night of laugh-a-minute lunacy.
I’m Pat Launer, for KPBS radio.
©1993 Patté Productions Inc.