Guffaws Behind The Curtain
I just wrote a review lauding the strength of Honolulu’s ensemble casts this 2018-2019 theatrical season, and the trend continues yet again! Diamond Head Theatre’s latest production, Noises Off, is no slouch in this area- the cast of ten operates like a well-oiled comedy machine. Written by Michael Frayn, it’s a farce written as a play-within-a-play following three nights of a production fraught with folly and drama called Nothing On.
Director Robert Duval deserves a round of applause, as the team he has under his wing in both cast and crew shine ever so brightly, even in these rainy nights Honolulu has been having. Set designer Willie Sabel had his work cut out for him: design a fully furnished theatre set whose backstage is also fully functional so that the actors may carry out their antics on both sides. He carries this out with aplomb, as his Nothing On set is wonderfully detailed and surprises the actors (and the audience) with my written-in idiosyncrasies as the play goes on. Dawn Oshima’s lighting is subtle yet functional, and serves the production well. Karen G. Wolfe’s costumes, paired with the hair & make up design by Linda Lockwood, give the characters distinct and dynamic looks while also following how weathered each actor is throughout the course of the show. Kerri Yoneda’s sound design is crisp and clear, and finally John Cummings III’s props are many but well made, including a wired telephone that gets a lot of physical prat mileage in addition to one of the show’s trademark props, the fishy sardines!
Noises Off begins with Lloyd Dallas (Kevin Keaveney), who is the lofty director tasked with putting together the production of the sex farce, Nothing On. With its top billed actress, middle-aged Dotty Otley (Ann Brandman) forgetting certain blocking and lines, one of the “pros” of the theatrical circuit Selsdon Mowbray (Saul Rollason) constantly in danger of having another drink (and missing entrances), and the overworked stage manager Tim Allgood (Christopher Denton) falling asleep in the middle of patching up set and costume mishaps, there is a lot to do in a short amount of time- the show opens in less than 24 hours. Rounding out the cast: Poppy Norton-Taylor (Antoinette Lilley), a downtrodden assistant stage manager caught between getting a million things done and her past romantic history with the director; Garry Lejeune (Mathias Maas), the lead in this farce with a budding relationship with Dotty Otley; Brooke Ashton (Rachele Rees), an actress that is constantly losing her contacts while being slavishly devoted to her lines; Belinda Blair (Therese Olival), the cast member that seems to be the most level headed, playing firefighter to many of the cast’s unexpected blazes; and Frederick Fellows (Garrett Hols), one of the more shier actors who unfortunately is suspect to nosebleeds and fainting when in the vicinity of violence. The entire first act of Noises Off is a rehearsal and run through of Nothing On’s first act, and it’s all downhill from there for the company, but merely starting for the audience.
As a farce, Duval’s production delivers in spades. The first act may seem slow, but it absolutely essential as it coaches the audience about which lines go where and how each actor should be doing what. I had a ball of a time watching the first act, as it’s exaggerated nature is beautiful to witness. There is something strangely satisfying watching a company struggle with the plethora of issues that plague a production from opening, and Frayn’s writing peppers in enough story in-between the lines so that you could glean the juicy gossip of everyone’s inter-cast relations. After the tipping point of act one, acts two and three become masterclasses in physical comedy and timing, as time and time again the actors execute one physical gag after another. Act two has the audience watching the first act of Nothing On from the back, and act three returns the action to the front of the set. The sheer amount of planning, choreography, and timing to pull off the hundreds of entrances, exits, and physical bits is astounding and impressive, and here Duval and every member of the cast should be lauded. As farces go, there always needs to be a forward momentum going, never having to worry about whether a joke lands or not because another is coming up really quick. The company executes this to a tee, not holding back from the punches and the punchlines, and thus should be proud of the work they are all putting in.
Do you enjoy physical comedy and British farces? Watching the inner workings of what goes on during a play? How about having a laugh, or fifty? Noises Off at Diamond Head Theatre is a strong addition to their season, a straight up crowd pleasing play. Get ready to have a blast, and be sure to catch the company through February 10. For tickets, visit the link here.