Sierra Repertory Theatre opens its first Fallon House show of the year with “Noises Off,” praised as the “funniest comedy ever written” by the New York Post and often acclaimed as the comedy by which all other comedies are compared. The play opened Thursday in Columbia State Historic Park and will have a month-long run.
“Noises Off” is a comical romp that follows a cast, crew and their director through their misadventures, miscommunications and misbehaviors on stage and behind the scenes. The play takes its title from the theatrical stage direction, “noises off,” indicating sounds coming from back stage. Playwright Michael Frayn was inspired to write this play within a play while watching one of his farcical productions from backstage. The original “Noises Off” premiered in London in 1982 and has traveled the world many times since. Its most recent Broadway revival opened in January 2016 and was nominated for the 2016 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play.
The comedy is no stranger at Sierra Repertory Theatre. It debuted in the 1987 season with revivals in 1991 and 2001. It will be the final production that SRT co-founder and Producing Director Dennis Jones brings to life on stage prior to his retirement in July of this year. Jones also designed the complex set that breaks apart to take the audience to the backstage antics.
For Jones, directing “Noises Off” is a return to a production he calls an affectionate favorite.
“It is a production that transports an audience to a better place through comedy,” he said.
Jones recalled that many times, while watching from the wings, he would see whole audiences rock forward in unison with laughter, and that is what he would like to create again for the 2017 Fallon House production. Helping him achieve that goal is a cast of new and returning actors. Becky Saunders reprises her 2001 role of the ever-forgetful Dotty Otley/Mrs. Clakett.
“Being an actress, playing an actress, I find the stereotypical aspects of these characters deliciously funny,” Saunders said.
Saunders has considered SRT and the gold country a second home since 1994, most recently playing Salome in “The Robber Bridegroom,” and directing the 2016 productions “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” and Church “Basement Ladies: A Mighty Fortress is Our Basement.” While performing in “Noises Off” she will train with SRT Managing Director Sara Jones to step into that position in August 2017.
Joining Saunders in “Noises Off” is Louis Lotorto as Frederick Fellowes/Phillip Brent. Lotorto previously appeared in “Don’t Dress For Dinner,” as well as SRT’s productions of “The Rainmaker” and “The Ladies Man” in 2011, and “Rough Crossing” and “Picasso at the Lapin Agile” before then. He was in a production of “Noises Off” approximately four years ago, playing the director, Lloyd Dallas and said it was a great experience.
“Ever since I was lucky enough to see the original production on Broadway with my father, it was a wish of mine to be in it one day,” Lotorto said. “It’s just the funniest farce I’ve ever seen in my life. To get the chance to participate in it a second time, in a completely different role, is an actor’s dream. My upcoming role as Freddie is a much more physically demanding role than Lloyd, and it’s quite an aerobic workout, so I’m seriously in training right now for it!”
The cast also includes Francesca Manzi, Mark Poppleton, Timothy Portnoy, Zoe Swenson-Graham, company actor Ty Smith, and newcomers Jennifer Kranz and Ross Hellwig.
“Noises Off” is rated PG and runs through May 14 at SRT’s Fallon House Theatre in Columbia State Historic Park. Performances are offered at 2 p.m., Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday, and some Thursdays and 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and some Thursdays. A special Talk Back Q&A will be held after the May 11 performance. Ticket prices range from $32 to $37 with senior, student and rush ticket discounts available. For tickets and information visit www.sierrarep.org or call the Box Office at 209-532-3120.