Noises Off-A Theatrical Farce by Michael Frayn at NTC

The cast of Novato Theater Company's production of Noises Off

Noises Off, a comic masterpiece, directed by Carl Jordan opened last night at NTC, is not one play but two--the hilariously horrible British farce "Nothing On" and the comedic nightmare that ensues backstage.  Slamming doors, flying props, pratfalls, sardines and the two story revolving sets by Gary Gonser abound as we see the first act of Nothing On presented three times, each with successively less attention to the script.  

Act I is the dress rehearsal. While the impatient director, Lloyd Dallas  (Craig Christiansen) trudges through the opening scene of Nothing On, the actors keep breaking character. Dottie (Kim Williams) keeps forgetting when to take her plate of sardines.  Garry (Robert Nelson) keeps challenging the stage directions in the script.  Brooke (Melissa Claire) is clueless about her fellow performers and constantly loses her contact lens.  
Act II is backstage antics and takes place entirely backstage. The entire set rotates to reveal the behind-the-scenes events that unfold. It is fun to watch the same scene of Nothing On from a different perspective.

Act III is when everything goes wrong after the cast of Nothing On performs their show for nearly 3 months--they are seriously burned out.  When Dottie makes a few mistakes during her opening scene, she just begins to ramble making up lines off the top of her head.  The rest of the characters then make a series of mistakes. Garry cannot improvise his way out of a paper bag. Brooke doesn't pay attention to the changes rapidly occurring. She keeps doing her lines even when they are not appropriate and the veteran actor, Selsdon (Ron Dailey) can't keep away from the booze.  By the play's end, their show is a comic catastrophe.  

Noises Off may be the most challenging script Director Carl Jordan has ever attempted to stage, where perfect timing is critical.  He is given able support by the professionalism of his cast and a wonderful technical crew.  Melissa Claire and Ron Dailey are particular standouts.  Dailey has few lines but makes the most of all of them while Claire's vacant expressions and exclamations and strong determination make Brooke extremely likable.  

Richard Nelson has a few funny moments as the inarticulate Garry as do Mark Clark as the overly nervous Frederick and Gigi Benson as the ever game Belinda as well as Emily Surface as Poppy, the pregnant assistant stage manager and Matt Farrell as the company stage manager, these two are the mostly innocent backstage crew members who get drawn into the trouble onstage. Last but not least, special mention to Kim Williams as the dotty Dottie who can barely remember her lines and Craig Christiansen as Lloyd Dallas, the demanding director.

Noises Off is written with wit and heart making it more than mere farce or parody of farce; it speaks to what we love about theater and makes us laugh at our dramas onstage and off.

Noises Off runs at the Novato Theater Company through June 17, 2012.  Performances are held Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. The Novato Theater Company Playhouse is located at 484 Ignacio Blvd., Novato.  For tickets, call 883-4498 or go online at

Flora Lynn Isaacson