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THEATER REVIEW

Bang, bang -- the `Noises Off' audience is laughing

September 22, 2006|Daryl H. Miller | Times Staff Writer

The director character in the backstage lark "Noises Off" offers a sharp, succinct analysis of how to perform farce: "Bang, bang, bang. Bang you're on," he says. "Bang you've said it. Bang you're off."

All those bangs indicate the fast pace required for physical comedy, with one or two perhaps also suggesting the slamming of doors, the dropping of pants or any of the myriad other sight gags that keep a farce -- and the laughs it generates -- racing along.

The version of "Noises Off" being presented by Civic Light Opera of South Bay Cities knows how to deliver its bangs. It's the same Richard Seyd-directed production that has roamed the West Coast for years now, appearing at Pasadena Playhouse three years ago. Happily, it's traveling better than the ill-fated production it depicts.

Michael Frayn's 1982 comedy charts the progress of a sex farce on a tour through British backwaters, building to breakneck speed as it demonstrates the many things that can go wrong when performers are asked to juggle odd props -- plates of sardines, a bottle of glue, multiple overnight bags -- while disappearing through or entering via a door at a precise moment.

The farce-within-the-farce is set in a country getaway house, envisioned by designer John Iacovelli as a rustic but rather grand affair of timber and plaster, outfitted with a staircase just right for tumbling down and oh, yes, a lot of doors.

It becomes an exercise gym for Seyd's actors, only a couple of whom remain from the Pasadena engagement, but each a gifted clown.

As the action begins, a housekeeper (Lori Larsen) enters to answer a ringing phone. Her rat-a-tat line delivery trails off, however, when it comes time to exit with -- now, which is it? -- a plate of sardines in hand, or a newspaper?

A godlike voice issues from the auditorium. This belongs to the director (Mark Chamberlin), whose use of endearments -- "honey," "precious" and so on -- begins to sound like the firing of verbal bullets as his patience wears thinner.

The hour passes midnight and mistakes keep mounting as the rest of the cast, prone to an amusing array of personal tics, joins the action: the sputterer (Bradford Farwell), the dim bulb (Bhama Roget), the hard-luck guy (Michael Patten), the gossip queen (Maureen McVerry) and the elderly, not-so-reformed alcoholic (Ed Sarafian). Jumping in to assist are the production personnel: the sleep-deprived company manager (Mark Anders) and tearful assistant stage manager (Ali Taylor).

Soon, the dim bulb, having lost a contact, is doing a groping, splay-kneed Frankenstein walk down the stairs, the hard-luck guy is pinching back nosebleeds and someone will take a very dramatic dive down those stairs.

Bang, bang, bang, you're off.

daryl.miller@latimes.com

*

`Noises Off'

Where: Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center, 1935 Manhattan Beach Blvd., Redondo Beach

When: 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays,

2 and 7 p.m. Sundays

Ends: Oct. 1

Price: $37.50 to $52.50

Info: (310) 372-4477 or www.civiclightopera.com

Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes

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