“NOISES OFF,” through Aug. 1, Old Lyric Repertory Company, 28 W. Center, Logan (435-750-1500 or arts.usu.edu); running time: 2 hours, 25 minutes (two intermissions)
LOGAN — Comfort food exists for almost anyone who has taste buds and a memory. But then there’s grandma’s specially-seasoned-and-tastes-better-for-some-reason comfort food.
“Noises Off” is an oft-produced British farce that tests the chops of community and semiprofessional theater troupes as it takes better-than-average timing and slapstick to make it work just right. It’s a production that is likely becoming familiar to regular theatergoers since being written in the early 1980s by playwright Michael Frayn.
Nonetheless, it’s grandma’s rice pudding — that fun, silly and perfectly seasoned comfort food that is working once again for the Old Lyric Repertory Company as it opens its summer season in Logan.
“Noises Off” is especially fun for theater lovers because of its play-within-a-play format and all of its inside jokes and dialogue. In watching “Noises Off,” the audience is actually watching a troupe of less-than-perfect actors perform “Noises On,” a slapstick comedy they are preparing to take on the road to municipal theaters throughout England, often performing matinees in front of audiences filled with old-age pensioners.
Act 1 introduces the audience to the diverse and quirky actors as they bravely try to make their way through the final dress rehearsal.
Besides giving OLRC patrons a quick taste of the final scenes of “Noises On” and of the idiosyncrasies of the actors, the stumbling, bumbling dress rehearsal allows Joseph Tisa to be introduced as frustrated director Lloyd Dallas. Tisa does a good job of getting the audience to feel his pain, though his about-to-boil-over dynamics are sometimes hard to hear, and he is often facing away from the audience, adding to the problem.
Quickly getting giggles from the audience is Stefan Espinosa playing actor Garry Lejeune, a leading man with an immediately identifiable quirk of never quite saying what he means. His over-the-top performance in Act 2 works perfectly as most of the actors are limited to facial expressions and physical humor.
Act 2 turns the set around and lets the audience see the backside of the goings-on — the choreography needed to try to make “Noises On” and “Noises Off” work.
There were no weak links in the opening night production of “Noises Off.” All the slamming doors, slippery sardines, lost contact lenses and pants around the ankles — yes, plenty of those — worked like a charm.
Arika Schockmel is easy to hear and enjoy as maid Dotty Otley. Gordon Dunn is perfect as the mousy Frederick Fellowes, an actor so bland that he gets nosebleeds when people raise their voices. Patrick Williams is a perfectly confused and near-deaf Selsdon Mowbray who is in constant search of his bourbon bottle.
This being the fourth time OLRC has performed “Noises Off,” is this the best production in memory? Maybe not. Acts 2 and 3, for example, feel a bit less like a well-choreographed waltz and more like a rough-and-tumble improvisation. But that’s OK. It is very watchable and enjoyable nonetheless — some pretty good rice pudding to remind audiences how much fun the theater can be.
“Noises Off” will be running in repertory with “Last Train to Nibroc,” “The Mystery of Edwin Drood: The Musical,” and Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None” until Aug. 1.
Jay Wamsley has covered arts and sporting events in and around Cache Valley for more than 25 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.