The cast of the world premiere sex comedy, “Nothing On,” is drenched in sweat only hours before the opening night performance. The stage manager and single crew member haven’t slept in days, and the director is hanging on to his sanity by his fingernails, as he attempts a final dress rehearsal. His leading lady can’t remember her lines, other actors are embroiled in backstage scandal and strife, and a key player has fallen seriously off the wagon.
So begins Michael Frayn’s Tony Award-winning farce, “Noises Off,” playing through Dec. 20 at Glendale’s A Noise Within. Frayn’s now-classic comedy had its origin as Frayn stood in the wings during a performance of one of his own farces, observing that what went on backstage was funnier than the scripted play.
Seventeen-year ANW member Deborah Strang plays aging diva Dotty Otley, whose short-term memory loss plagues her every scene. Strang – also currently playing Queen Margaret in “Richard III” – is adorably bemused, tolerating her crazed director’s manic frustration with a trouper’s practiced ease. Actual stage director Geoff Elliott delivers a star turn as the director of the play-within-a-play. All icy sarcasm over barely contained rage, Elliott’s Lloyd Dallas manipulates his wayward players with flattery, threats and deception worthy of the King in Elliott’s concurrently running “Richard III.”
Lenne Klingaman plays the overworked and underappreciated stage manager, Poppy. ANW newcomer Emily Kosloski is delicious and daffy as brainless Brooke, the doomed production’s underwear-clad sex joke and Poppy’s rival for Lloyd’s affection. Adding to the nonstop frenetic shenanigans are terrific performances from Mikael Salazar as Dotty’s jealous lover, Garry; Stephen Rockwell as the troupe’s resident Method actor; Jill Hill as backstage backstabber, Belinda; Shaun Anthony as the stage hand and understudy, Tim; and Apollo Dukakis as the company’s recovering alcoholic, perpetually on the brink of a bender.
For all the wonderful performances under co-directors Geoff Elliott and Julia Rodriguez-Elliot, perhaps the real stars of this show are Adam Lillibridge’s ingenious set and the flawlessly choreographed ensemble crew who manipulate the scene changes. No kidding. The audience watched in rapt fascination during both intermissions, as this stellar group turned the massive set inside out and completely around, seemingly in the blink of an eye. The virtuoso display earned said stage crew prolonged, enthusiastic applause each time. These magicians, who deserve to be mentioned by name, are Mary Eileen Young, Lewis Blanchard, Katie Elsaesser, Sarah Chang, Stefan Tabencki, Katerina Schmidt, production manager Rebecca Baillie, and the aforementioned set designer Adam Lillibridge, in his capacity as technical director.
Performances of “Noises Off” continue Friday, Dec. 18, 8 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 19, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. The Sunday, Dec. 20, 2 p.m. show includes a special fundraising Victorian Tea. An extension has just been announced with shows Friday, Feb. 5, to Sunday, Feb. 14, 2010. A Noise Within, 234 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale, (818) 240-0910, ext. 1, www.ANoiseWithin.org.