Regional Reviews: Las Vegas
Also see Mary's review of American Idiot
Noises Off, by British playwright Michael Frayn, is considered by many to be one of the funniest English farces ever written. While it seems a tad dated today, and act one requires patience, the payoff in acts two and three still makes for a very entertaining evening.
A good farce requires precise timing and lots of energy. Fortunately, in this co-production by Super Summer Theatre and Poor Richard's Players, co-directors Benjamin Loewy and Maxim Lardent deliver the timing, and the spirited actors deliver buckets of energy.
The clever play-within-a-play theme involves a low budget theatre company doing a national tour of a 1960s-style sex comedy called Nothing On. In the opening act, we watch the underprepared cast and their exasperated director stumble through their final rehearsal before opening night. Here we get an inkling of the quirks and weaknesses of the individual company members. In the second act, we are mid-tour, and the company's relationships have begun to sour. Thanks to a set that does a complete 180, we are now backstage watching the actors attempt to perform the play for their tour audience while ripping each another to shreds behind the scenes. In the final act, we watch the same scenes again, this time from in front of the stage, but by nowthe last stop on the tourthe production has completely unraveled.
The structure of Frayn's play is ingenious. The first act teaches us what the actors are supposed to be doing on the stage. The second act focuses on the off-stage shenanigans, but we can see and hear just enough of the onstage action to sense what's going wrong. By the third act, we know the scripted action so well that we recognize just how far the performances have strayed, and the offstage noises clue us in to the chaos backstageour imagination fills in the rest.
The actors switch flawlessly between their natural American accents and the feigned British accents of their Nothing On characters. Occasionally, they seem to be working too hard. Farce is a delicate genre, and one that requires a light touch. This aspect of the production may improve as the actors settle into their roles. On opening weekend, one performer had already found his groove -- Richard Munchkin, as the unreliable and frequently inebriated Selsdon Mowbray.
On a Broadway stage equipped with an automated revolve, flipping a set back to front is hardly a challenge. At the Super Summer Theatre, however, there is no revolve, so it's a very big deal. Thanks to set designer Steve Paladie, the double flip goes smoothly, and is surprisingly quick each time. It's done in a blackout, too, which is kind of a shame. The set change deserves its own round of applause.
Noises Off runs through September 21, 2019, at the Super Summer Theatre at Spring Mountain State Park, 6375 Nevada Hwy. 159, Blue Diamond NV. Performances are Thursday-Saturday at 7:05 p.m. For tickets ($15) and further information, go to www.supersummertheatre.org.