“Noises Off” – Phoenix Theatre

This review aired on KBAQ August 30, 2010


Phoenix Theatre
Phoenix, AZ

If madcap, slapstick farce performed at rapid-fire pace by superb comedians tickles your funny bone, you’ll howl in delight at the wildly hysterical zany antics in Phoenix Theatre’s season opener, “Noises Off.” Matthew Wiener, on loan from Actors Theatre, stages Michael Frayn’s 1982 backstage joke-fest with delicious comic relish.

The playwright’s farcical expose explores a third-rate British traveling theater company’s staging of “Nothing On,” a comedy. The motley troupe performing it attaches lusty and bawdy silliness to the already inane plot with a maniacal backstage drama that plays out among these second-rate and over-the-hill performers. As the tour progresses and the players rekindle long buried rivalries and jealousies, “Noises Off” becomes even more boisterously amusing.

Frayn’s British comedy can be dastardly to watch if the performers don’t have the artful comedy timing and physical clowning skill that Wiener’s superlative cast has. Couple the cast’s brilliant comedy timing sense with Wiener’s clever stage shenanigans and it creates joyous theatrical malarkey.

Providing too many plot details will spoil the fun but know that old actors can’t remember lines, bad actors don’t belong on stage, backstage interpersonal relationships always get in the way, and actors’ weird habits cause confusion.

Cathy Dresbach, a local comic institution, essays Dotty, a forgetful and doddering mansion caretaker, hysterically. Her real life lover, Garry, played with madcap zaniness by Christopher M. Williams, is having a liaison with a ditzy blonde, Brooke both on stage and off. Leann Dearing has a field day with her character’s stupidity. Maren Maclean’s haughty grande dame, Belinda, is played with wildly hilarious physical humor, and her boyfriend, Freddie, is played by a simple-minded actor that Joseph Kremer handles with silly but drolly comic earnestness. Mike Lawler is a hoot as the drunken Selsdon, who can’t be relied on to make his key entrances as a burglar. Andi Watson is a frantically fragile stage manager, Poppy, who is having an affair with the play’s director, Lloyd, played with temperamental trepidation by Robert Kolby Harper as he initially tolerates but later gets increasingly frustrated with his actors weird foibles.

A wonderful set provides multiple doors used for the comic chaos and the massive set revolves to let audiences see a performance from the backstage perspective.

Phoenix Theatre’s “Noises Off” amuses, delights, and entertains mightily. It continues through September 12. For tickets, call the Phoenix Theatre box office at 602-254-2151 or order tickets online at www.phoenixtheatre.com.

Grade: A