- Terelle Jerricks
By John Farrell
You’d be surprised by just how many laughs you can get with a plate of sardines.
Then again, maybe you wouldn’t, because thousands of people have laughed at Michael Frayn’s Noises Off since it first premiered in London 30 years ago. If you’ve seen it, you’ll want to see it again at the Norris Theater in Rolling Hills Estates, where it is playing weekends through October 7. And if you haven’t seen it, do yourself the favor of going and discovering just how funny sardines and actors can be.
Noises Off is a play in a play in a play: three acts but only one partial plot. In the first act you see the last rehearsal of a play called Nothing On and learn that the actors don’t know their lines, their entrances, or even what the play is about. The second act takes place behind the set, with actors feuding and half-a-dozen things going wrong at once, while the play is being acted on the other side of the wall. The third act shows the play in a final performance from the front again, where even more goes wrong.
All this depends on the actors having perfect timing, even as they pretend that they don’t. The Norris cast (Tracy Lore, Louis Lotorto, Jeffrey Cannata, Rachel Scott, Andrea Paquin, Justin T. Bowler, Angie Light, Dane Biren and John Briganti) deal with bags and boxes and stripping to their underwear, with flowers and bottles of whisky, with pants that fall down and dresses that disappear and reappear, without missing a beat.
This is also a triumph for stage designer, Greg Forbess, Master Carpenter Steve Hicks and their men and women. The Norris was originally planning to rent a set from a Seattle firm and only found out they would have to build their own a month ago. It is a triumph of many slamming doors and a perfect staircase and is proudly displayed when the curtain opens between acts to show the set being turned around.
But there’s one slight problem. The lead character has to hide from Inland Revenue because he’d face a huge tax bill if he were found in the country when he was supposed to be in Spain. This is a joke that doesn’t quite work when the play is set in the Mid-West.
If you like sardines, or even if you hate them, you’ll laugh yourself silly at this now-classic farce-of-farces.
Tickets are $38. Performances are Friday, Sept. 28 at 8 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 29 at 8 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 30 at 2 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m. through Oct. 7.
Details: (310) 544-0403, www.norriscenter.com
Venue: Norris Theatre
Location: 27570 Norris Center Drive, Rolling Hills Estates