Remaining shows are April 22, 23, 29 and 30 at 7:30 p.m.; April 24 and May 1 at 2 p.m. Check taterpatchplayers.org for more information
By Pat Northcutt
Tater Patch Players
Superb timing, absurd situations and outrageous sight gags dominate this latest Tater Patch production in a season of comedies.
"Noises Off" starts off innocently enough with a housekeeper answering a phone call and explaining that the home owners are in "Spayn" (Cockney for "Spain"). Unexpectedly she breaks character, the play director yells at her from the audience, and theater patrons realize they are treated to a play within a play.
Only hours away from opening night, the troupe deals with conflicts, quarrels and peccadillos that threaten the actual production of the show. Dotty Otley (played by Teresa Harris) is an aging diva who invested her life savings into the show. Challenged to remember what props to use and what to say, she anxiously listens to critiques from director Lloyd Dallas (played by Jacob Clark). Rattled rather than reassured, she initiates a running gag that has cast members juggling, spilling, and searching for plates of sardines.
In the play-within-a-play, two couples looking forward to a romantic getaway show up at the supposedly empty home. Classic door slamming humor ensues as the couples barely manage to avoid each other in tight action sequences that get interrupted by the director or the actors themselves. A lost contact lens, nervous nose bleeds, misplaced clothing, broken door knobs, multiple romantic liaisons and a precious bottle of gin provide springboards for hilarity.
Last seen in "The Miracle Worker," Kelly Roberts gives a strong performance as the harried, lovely but much-put-upon stage manager, Poppy Norton-Taylor. She and David Best (new to the stage, playing Tim Allgood, assistant stage manager/repairman/errand boy), are responsible for the technical aspects of the play, operating on little sleep and even less appreciation. Shamelessly used by the director, they go to great lengths to keep actors sober, calm, ready to go on stage. It's a treat to watch them shift from backstage panic to professional mode as they make announcements to the audience.
Prepare for major laughs from Garry Lejeune (played by Tony Bowers) and Brooke Ashton (played by Vanessa Stancil), struggling to fit their stolen moments into a tight time frame, foiled by the unexpected arrival of John Tinsley as Frederick Fellowes and Buffy Bezdek as Belinda Blair, owners of the home. It's classic slapstick humor complete with dropped pants, jealousies, mistaken identities, wailing women, a murderously angry leading man----topped by multiple wrong entrances by boozy burglar Selsdon Mowbray (played by Andy Kippenhan). So much happens so quickly that you will want to see this show twice; maybe even three times!
The set itself is as impressive as the performance. A two-storied design with baronial staircase, the entire set rotates twice. When the curtain opens for Act I, the audience sees the interior of the home. A team of workers rivalling the precision of a NASCAR pit crew rotates the set for Act II, and the audience gets the "backstage" view. At the second intermission, the same crew reverses the procedure for Act III. This is truly the most ambitious set design yet for Tater Patch. Bob Countryman and his team deserve high praise for delivering this key element of the show's success.
Directed by Patrick Hall and Nan Nawrocki, "Noises Off" is an absolute 'must see'.