The Placer Performance Calendar


Great Local Shows - Theatrical Reviews

Title Noises Off
Organization Sutter Street Theatre
Date(s) of show February 21 - April 4, 2015
Reviewer Gerry Camp

British playwright Michael Frayn’s 1982 farce Noises Off has been a staple of community theaters for many years. Sutter Street Theatre’s Managing Director Mike Jimena has long wanted to produce the play, but the small stage made it impractical. The recent renovation, which lowered the playing area several feet, has made building the huge two-story set possible, so Folsom theater-goers can at last see what has been called one of the funniest plays ever written.

The play, presented in three acts, shows what happens when Ostend Productions Ltd. is preparing the bedroom farce “Nothing On” for a National Tour. Each act of Noises Off is a separate performance of Act One of “Nothing On,” the first the dress rehearsal, the second the show before an audience four weeks later, and the third a performance near the end of its run in the big city, Bakersfield.

Act One is the play viewed from the front, a rehearsal plagued with mislaid props, costume malfunctions, missed cues, and one hilarious disaster after another. Act Two shows the same act from backstage, where hostility has developed among the actors as they threaten each other’s lives while sabotaging each other’s performances. Act Three, again from the front, shows the play in complete chaos, with actors missing, in the wrong roles improvising wildly, or slipping on a floor covered with sardines as they somehow try to make sense of their show.

In most productions, movement between acts is achieved by rotating the massive set on a rolling platform. On Sutter Street’s small stage the entire modular set, created by Mike  Jimena, must be dismantled, reversed, and reassembled between each act.

What makes this production spectacular is director James Gilbreath’s brilliant coordination of the seemingly chaotic movement of his cast of nine, all of whom are in constant, often violent physical action, none ever missing a handed-off prop or a head-first crash into a table.

The actors in a farce such as Noises Off must act as a precise ensemble, and these performers exhibit  perfect timing while creating delightful comic personas. They are, in order of appearance, Connie Mockenhaupt as Dotty, the lady with the sardines; Mike Jimena as the director of “Nothing On”; Aaron Horne as the angry one; sexy Chelsea Ciechanowski as the one in her underwear; Vanessa Voetsch as Poppy, the harried assistant stage manager; Blake Flores as the one with his trousers down; Alison Lewis as the bitchy one; Tyler Eckert as the stage manager and the sheik; and Marcus Daniel as the alcoholic actor who plays the burglar. Each actor performs with an equally high level of skill, intensity, and coordination.

Ultimately I must say, however, that this is Mike Jimena’s show. It was his vision that brought this incredible play to the stage, his genius for set design, and not least his convincing performance as the director of the play within the play that have given Folsom theater lovers the funniest evening of laughter they are likely to see this year.

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