The Welk Resort Theatre typically features revivals of musical comedies. However, currently, a farce is being staged in Escondido. Director, Ray Limon, has teamed up once again with Premiere Productions to present Michael Frayn’s popular comedy, Noises Off!
Not only is the author’s 1982 tale still in demand, but a Broadway revival with Andrea Martin and Megan Hilty recently closed at the American Airlines Theatre.
Commencing in a theatre in England, Weston-super-Mare, a director, Lloyd (Vista Broadway Theater co-owner Randall Hickman) is staging the farce, Nothing On. Unfortunately for him, very little seems to be going according to plan at the final dress rehearsal.
The script for Nothing On has an abundance of corny jokes, contrived situations and a plot that barely makes any sense. Lloyd’s cast could have elevated the material, but many of them, including the alcoholic Selsdon Mowbray (Ralph Johnson), the sensitively neurotic Freddie (Paul Morgavo) and the absentminded Dotty Otley (Robin LaValley) appear less than prepared for opening night.
As the tour of Nothing On continues, one would expect the artists to become stronger in their craft and rise to the occasion to make the most of their material. Instead, the exact opposite happens.
Frayn’s script gives the impression that his main goal is to make audiences laugh as much as possible. There is amusement to be had in watching unprofessional behavior occur on and off stage. Just when you think the company hits bottom, the domino effect continues.
A loose story does exist, but its more of an excuse for slapstick, intentionally hokey acting and out of control chaos. No forced morals or dramatic sequences are used during the 140-minute running time.
Anyone can easily follow the events, but diehard theatre fans will probably laugh the loudest at certain lines. Dialogue about Shakespeare’s Richard III, matinee performances and last minute rehearsals are mischievously smart.
Limon is responsible for making sure that the difficult to stage interpretation does not crash and burn. Everything looks to be under control because of him, which is not an easy feat to pull off with such a fast
Besides the aforementioned actors, the rest of the players are all in at least a couple of very funny sequences. Lindsey Denham, Michael Kelly, Brannon Shaw, Michelle Marie Trester and Julian Diaz commit to frequently loony situations.
Helping to create the world of Nothing On are set designer, Douglas Davis, costume coordinator, Renetta Lloyd, and lighting designer, Jennifer Edwards. As deliberately bad as the plot is, the clothing and look of the staged country home do not feel amateurish at all.
While the cast and direction were all on point during the first showing, microphone problems made many lines difficult to understand. The sound issues grew in Act II and were sometimes a distraction to audience members.
Limon’s only misstep is a fake video promo for Nothing On in between Act II and III. During the advertisement, there is a funny conversation with an interviewer and Lloyd and Dotty. Between questions, clips from Noises Off! play in the background, which makes the video seem more like a trailer for Premiere Productions’ interpretation. Compared to everything before and afterwards, the scene feels out of place with the rest of the humor.
Luckily, Act 3 builds off of the first two thirds. More antics continue to rapidly grow, which means that the conclusion contains quite a few of Frayn’s best jokes.
Noises Off! does not fall flat like the show within the show. In fact, it’s absolutely hysterical. Although Limon has gotten a lot of deserved acclaim for his work on musicals, he is a natural at directing a farce.