Front Row Reviews

“Noises Off” Spins Social Interactions into Comedy Gold   

Novato Theater Company

Michael Frayn’s “Noises Off” is a sharp, witty, and intricately twisted laugh-out-loud farce about a play that is, in itself, a farce. It hilariously explores human behaviors, their complexities, follies, and deceits. Under Carl Jordan’s creatively honed direction, this fast-paced comedy leaps from order to chaos, mirroring our tumultuous society.

A Bay Area Theatre Company is producing the farce “Nothing On,” set to hopefully tour the Bay Area. Michael Walraven’s intricate set design features a theatre stage on wheels that turns to highlight behaviors acted on the front stage, as well as the cast’s genuine feelings backstage.

The opening curtain reveals the chaos of a tech rehearsal turning into a chaotic dress rehearsal. Lloyd Dallas, the play’s promiscuous director (persistent Mike Pavone), placates the actors and constantly attempts to propel the play forward.

High-energy real estate agent Roger (dynamic Diego Hardy) brings potential buyer Vicki (multitalented Melody Payne) to an empty house to woo her while the owners are in Spain. They encounter the flustered housekeeper Dotty (engaging Heather Shepardson), who is focused on plates of missing sardines.

Hardy and Payne share a dynamic, palpable connection. As the adroit Roger slips on sardines and slides down the railing, Vicki shows that you can’t judge a woman by her corset—mouthing the lines of the play while in character. Both Hardy and Payne’s exaggerated facial and body mannerisms are noteworthy.

The actors excel in pacing, precision, and choreography, their dialogue flawless and quick. Director Jordan has brought each character to their full potential. A plethora of props appear and disappear thanks to China Lamers, the prop handler. Clothes and suitcases are flung into different rooms, and Kate Leland’s period costumes shine, especially Vicki’s red dress. All this action is heightened by Bruce Vieira’s sound effects coupled with Frank Sarubbi’s fluid lighting designs.

The Brents, Philip and Flavia, return unexpectedly from Spain. As doors slam and frustrations build, the zany yet steady Shepardson, as Dotty, finds herself caught in the middle of the chaos. The tormented Philip (disheartened Jeffrey Biddle) and charming Flavia (determined Jane Harrington) pursue an unattainable logical solution. Adding to the chaos is bumbling old-man Selsdon (endearing Wood Lockhart), who continues to misstep and misdirect. Of course, the four unexpectantly meet.

Act II is the twist, as the frenzied relationships of the real actors, their egos, love, and opinions immediately differ from the roles they played on the front stage. The gregarious, over-helpful Tim Allgood (affable Sky Collins), is a stand-in during Act I and an announcer in Act II. Additionally, Rachel Ka’iulani Kennealy well-acted the over-worked stage manager, and also portrays the director’s love interest in Acts I and II, rounding out the diverse ensemble.

The audience experiences the same play but focuses on the interactions backstage. Even funnier and more farcical than the play on stage, “Nothing On.”

“Noises Off” also highlights how people often perceive and act out certain situations, only to later realize the actual truth of how they felt. To see this satire is to see part of ourselves and the society around us. For non-stop enjoyment, come, sit, laugh.

“Noises Off” written by Michael Frayn, directed by Carl Jordan, at Novato Theater Company, info:, Novato, CA until July 14

cast: Jeffrey Biddle, Sky Collins, Diego Hardy, Jane Harrington, Rachel Ka’iulani Kennealy, Wood Lockhart, Mike Pavone, Melody Payne, Heather Shepardson

Top Banner: Mike Pavone (Lloyd), Heather Shepardson (Dotty), Melody Payne, (Vikki)

photo: Jere Torkelsen