Review: ‘Noises Off’ at San Francisco Playhouse (*****)

by Charles Kruger

The cast of ‘Noises Off’: Craig Marker, Nanci Zoppi, Johnny Moreno, Monique Hafen, Richard Louis James, Greg Ayers, Monica Ho, Kimberly Richards, Patrick Russell. Photo Credit: SF Playhouse.
This reviewer is a voting member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)

Even after three and a half decades, “Noises Off,” Michael Frayn’s  farcical masterpiece continues to delight.  Farce is fraught with danger, nevertheless, and may flop if not done right. SF Playhouse does it right. If this doesn’t give you some belly laughs, you must be a hopeless sourpuss.

The set up is simple.  Frayn imagines a company of second rate actors whose personal lives are fraught with complications, and throws them together in an English sex farce (called “Nothing On”).

In three ridiculous acts, we follow the company from a desperately inept dress rehearsal to a performance midway through the show’s tour (as experienced from backstage), culminating closing night by which the production has fallen apart completely.

Believe me, with a troupe of actors performing at breakneck speed and capable of the most extreme physical comedy, it is funny enough to leave you gasping for air.

“Noises Off” is a brilliant cream puff and, in times like these, who could ask for anything more? This description may be confusing, but I offer you a promise: You’ll laugh. A lot.

To succeed, a work like this must run like a well-oiled machine, and director Susi Damilano makes sure that it does. She’s aided by an excellent production staff, especially the props designed by Jacquelyn Scott and the fight choreography of Mike Martinez.

The actors are some of the Bay area’s finest professionals and they deliver the goods with enthusiasm and uproarious comic skill. While everyone shines, Greg Ayers as the hapless stage manager Tim Allgood is the perfect straight man to the surrounding madness and presents one of  the evening’s funniest moments when he is unexpectedly called upon to act. Craig Marker reveals physical comedy skills we hadn’t suspected, and SF Playhouse favorite Monique Hafen is the consummate bimbo. I can’t call out each cast member, but evey one of them gets a share of guffaws.

Enjoy!

“Noises Off” continues at San Francisco Playhouse through May 13. For further information, click here.

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Rating: *****
(For an explanation of TheatreStorm’s rating scale, click here.)

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“Noises Off” by Michael Frayn. Produced by SF Playhouse. Director: Susi Damilano. Scenic Designer: George Maxwell. Lighting Designer: Mark Hueske Thomas. Sound Designer: Cliff Caruthers. Costume Designer: Abra Berman. Properties Designer: Jacquelyn Scott. Mike “Miguel” Martinez: Fight Choreography. Kimberly Mohne Hill: Dialect Coach. Alica Lerner: Stage Manager. 

Cast: Tim Allgood: Greg Ayers. Brook Ashton: Monique Hafen. Poppy Norton-Taylor: Monica Ho. Selsdon Mowbray: Richard Louis James. Frederick Fellowes: Craig Marker. Lloyd Dallas: Johnny Moreno. Dotty Ottley: Kimberly Richards. Gary Lejeune: Patrick Russell. Belinda Blair: Nancy Zuppi. 

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2 thoughts on “Review: ‘Noises Off’ at San Francisco Playhouse (*****)

  1. A helpful review, but a confusing star system: five stars after the title, but only three at the end of the review. So which one is it? Thanks.

    1. Oops! It’s five stars, for sure.

      Thank you, Christopher, for calling that typo to my attention.

      _> Charles

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