A truly funny comedy never gets old, and A Noise Within (ANW) — a Pasadena gem that is the Los Angeles area’s most renowned repertory theater — is living by that principle with its current season-ending run of the beloved farce “Noises Off.”
The show was such a hit in the previous season that ANW brought it back by popular demand, and the madcap story of the disastrous backstage shenanigans at a theater closes its current run this weekend.
Playwright Michael Frayn’s joyfully out-of-control British farce features an under-rehearsed and overworked cast and crew with a penchant for drama more personal than professional, preparing for the world premiere of a new play aptly titled “Nothing On.” As the production progresses, the bumbling cast brings the house down — literally.
The idea for the 1982 play came in 1970, when Frayn was watching from the wings a performance of “The Two of Us,” another farce that he had written for actress Lynn Redgrave. Each act of “Noises Off” contains a performance of the first act of a play within the play, a sex farce called “Nothing On.”
Act One takes place at the technical rehearsal at midnight, with the cast hopelessly unready on midnight the night before the first performance. Act Two takes place during a matinee performance a month into the run, with the focus more on the backstage shenanigans among the deteriorating cast, while Act Three shows one of the final performances, in which everyone is at each other’s throats and the set is completely falling apart.
Throughout, doors slam, characters engage in incredible physical comedy and the show maintains a wildly unpredictable edge. There are also spoof advertisements and acknowledgements of mystical props that do not actually appear, adding an extra layer of laughs to the mix. .
The play, which is the theater’s most requested production, is co-directed by ANW’s producing artistic directors Julia Rodriguez-Elliott and Geoff Elliott, who founded the theater in 1993. A lighter change of pace from their usual fare of dramatic classics that are often reinvented in unique stylistic settings, “Noises” has proven to be a smash hit several times throughout the ensemble’s history.
“’Noises Off’ is truly one of our signature productions, with audience members returning to see it two or more times,” says Elliott.
Rodriguez-Elliott adds, “Everything about the deft physical and verbal iinterplay between actors is ideal for A Noise Within’s focus on ensemble work.”
ANW’s previous stagings of Frayn’s outlandish production have won rave reviews from critics, whose praise included “a superb cast hit the banana peel running and never let up” (Los Angeles Times); “laser sharp comic timing” (Broadway World); “A Noise Within tackles the comedy with aplomb” (TheaterMania); and “Michael Frayn’s delightfully complicated British farce could hardly have a better rendition than this” (Backstage). n
“Noises Off” runs tonight through Sunday at A Noise Within, 3352 Foothill Blvd., Pasadena. Tickets are $25 to $70. Call (626) 356-3100 or visit anoisewithin.org.