NOISES OFF – Written by Michael Frayn; Directed by Geoffrey Kent.  Produced by the Arvada Center (6901 Wadsworth, Arvada) through May 5.  Tickets available at 720-898-7200 or 

NOISES OFF was the first show I remember literally falling out of my chair laughing.  It was a touring production and I think I was sitting in the last row of the old Auditorium Theatre watching the madness on stage and hardly believing what I was seeing.  There was a magnificent production a few years back at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival which featured the imminent director of this production.  But this current show at the Arvada Center pulled some of the best actors in Denver together with a director who knows the show intimately, a set designer and crew of builders who know how to put a set together that isn’t going to fail any of the raucous stunts it must support, a team of designers that know how to work together to create a work of freaking art, and a theatre producer that isn’t afraid to pull out all the stops to bring this complicated show to its audience. 

An octopus only has eight arms with which to move through space.  This octopus of a show has nine crucial moving parts – each as important as the next.  I would like to call your attention to each of these arms which will wind around your funny bone.  On stage first is Dotty Otley, the benefactor of this touring production who is making a last stand against retirement as an actress and just trying to “put a bit beside” for her old age pensioner days.  Kate Gleason gives her an optimistic hopeful air that slowly disintegrates when her ego overtakes her thoughts of the future.  She is, after all, the “star” of this show, the one everyone is coming to see because of her long career in a telly sitcom.  [Sorry, Dotty, you are going to be working well into your dotage if you’re counting on this show to finance anything.]  Next comes Brooke Ashton, a ditzy blonde who recites her lines robotically and doesn’t dare deviate from the path carefully laid out for her because she’s not smart enough to get back to the path once lost.  Her loose contact lens, her willingness to disrobe, her steadfast delivery of lines gives Noelia Antweiler a chance to shine.  You must be really smart to play that dumb.  Jenna Moll Reyes plays the hapless Assistant Stage Manager Poppy who gets caught in an unwilling love triangle and is willing to jump into any role if required.  Jenna’s portrayal of a weary and somewhat bewildered girl in a sort of starter position with the theatre company leads to many “Ahs” and “Oh Oh’s” as her part of the story plays out.  The final female in the troupe is Belinda Blair, who, as played by Shannan Steele, seems to have a modicum of good sense and realistic expectations from the whole touring experience . . .. until her gossipy “I have to know everything first” side comes out.  Her “fixing” does no one any good and occasionally further complicates an already complicated situation.  She does try, however, 

The members of the company are being directed by noted (at least busy) director Lloyd Dallas, given sarcastic life by Gareth Saxe (whose acting range is incredible as he goes from part to part all over Colorado).  His appearance from the back of the auditorium carrying a mic to talk to the cast rehearsing on the stage; his movement on and off the stage in authentic directing mode; the reveal of his busy off-stage life; and his final disintegration is a wonder to behold.  The oh-so-professional lead actor with his rote delivery of lines and gestures and undisguised but unfortunate admiration for Dotty is created by Adam Schroeder in a debut role in Denver.  His agility and willingness to perform some of the stunts required of him is breathtaking.  Rodney Lizcano, long recognized as one of the best in Colorado, does a slow take on the other lead in the play on tour.  His need for praise leads him to self-deprecate and proclaim stupidity with every other line, only so someone in the company will give him the ego boost he wants.  He really is a little dense and doesn’t realize the harm he is doing to the whole company with an innocent friendship with Dotty. He plays “seeming oblivious” very well.  And then there’s Teej Morgan-Arzola, one of my favorite graduates from DSA making a name for himself here at home.  He brings to life the bone-weary Stage Manager/Make Up Designer/Fight Choreographer/Dialect Coach/Props Master/Light Board Operator/Deck Crew and everyone’s understudy in the company.  He seems to be walking around in a daze as Lloyd shouts orders to him and Selsdon hides from him.  But when the time comes for him to step up, he’s there. 

And the last member of the company is the gender-bending Leslie O’Carroll who loves breaking the rules occasionally by donning the garb of a gentleman. Playing the most experienced actor in the company – the one legitimate trodder of the boards – not the one who found mediocre fame on television – Selsdon Mowbry. She makes the most of this role of the resident drunk in the cast. Her eternal search for the next full bottle becomes a pivot point for much of the humor. 

Act One introduces us to all the characters, their interdependence, and their roles in the play they are rehearsing to tour with everyone being SO sweet to each other, SO understanding of forgotten lines and misplaced sardines, and SO hopeful for a successful run. 

Act Two takes place halfway through the tour with the set turned around so we (the audience) are watching what’s going on backstage as the play is performed on the stage. In a word, CHAOS. Director Kent has created a kaleidoscope of activity depicting how far those sweet loving people we met in Act I have fallen. The gymnastics swirl around a fire axe, a full bottle of booze, a cactus, and multiple plates of sardines. There is so much happening onstage, your eyes cannot take it all in. There is so little time between silent sight gags and screamingly silly stunts that if you look at one too long, you’ll miss two or three on other parts of the stage. But the general picture of dissention in the ranks and the specific animosities that have been developed are revealed with clarity. 

Act Three turns the set around again to show their final performance at tour’s end. Everyone is hell bent for leather and the knives are out. The only hope is that all the actors on tour make it out alive. As one playgoer remarked, it was the actor Olympics as the action and the dirty tricks get even more violent, dangerous and hilarious in the hands of this talented cast. 

The set is a two-story authentic depiction of a typical touring set on a turntable that moves flawlessly from front of house to backstage and back. Everything looks perfect, works perfectly and supports the many demands of this script. All the special effects – flying phones, disappearing sardines, a movable cactus – worked without a hitch. One of the most amazing parts of the production was the choreography that allowed everything to get to the right place at the right time to complete the joke. It was a jigsaw work of art. 

This is the MUST SEE show for March and April!! 

A WOW factor of 9.25!! 

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