Tangled in a backstage are Dotty Otley (Ghislaine Sopher-Phillips), left, Frederick Fellowes (Derek Calibre) and Roger Tramplemain (Brent Yoshikami) in the production "Noises Off."

‘Noises Off’ ensemble
is superb

Take a moment, before the show starts or during intermission, to read both sides of the playbill for the Paliku Theatre production of "Noises Off," playwright Michael Frayn's play-with-a-play about the comic disasters that befall an English troupe's performance of a contemporary "English sex farce."

"Noises Off": Presented by Paliku Theatre at Windward Community College, continues at 7:30 p.m. Fridays, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays through May 2. Tickets are $21, with discounts for military, University of Hawaii staff and students, seniors and children. Call 235-7433 or visit

Open the playbill from one side and it provides all the normal theater information, but turn it over and you have the "playbull" for the world premiere performance of playwright Robin Housemonger's sex farce, "Nothing On," at the Grand Theatre Weston-super-Mare. It stars Dotty Otley, Belinda Blair and Gerry Lejeune, and is directed by Lloyd Dallas. Cast bios and related information, and an accompanying tongue-in-cheek essay about the religious and spiritual themes addressed in a good English sex farce, are worth a careful read -- perhaps during the second intermission, because refreshments are sold only during the first one.

In "Nothing On," ambitious Roger Tramplemain attempts to impress and seduce young Vicki by taking her to a vacant mansion and claiming that it belongs to him. When he discovers that the housekeeper is there on her day off; Roger tells the older woman that he is showing the place to a prospective renter.

Little does he know that the wealthy owners, Philip and Flavia Brent, who have been living outside England for tax purposes, have snuck back into the country so they can celebrate their wedding anniversary in their bedroom.

As if those aren't complications enough, a burglar decides the time is right to rob the "vacant" house.

The housekeeper, Mrs. Clackett, knows her employers are there but has promised she won't tell anyone. For some reason, she doesn't tell her employees that a rental agent is the house with a client. And nobody is expecting the burglar! And so it is that boxes, bags, clothing, furniture and several plates of sardines seem to appear and disappear of their own volition as Roger and Vicki and Philip and Flavia make their way to the bedroom.

STEP BACK into playwright Michael Frayn's "Noises Off" and we encounter director Dallas (Patrick Torres) and his cast as they struggle through a late-night rehearsal, then watch them fight their way through two performances. The ability of Dallas' cast and crew to work together is impeded by romantic entanglements -- Dotty Otley is having an affair with Gerry Lejeune, and Dallas is involved with sexy actress Brooke Ashton and assistant stage manager Poppy Norton-Taylor -- and by veteran actor Selsdon Mowbray's fading memory and fondness for alcohol.

The romantic relationships have deteriorated by the time "Nothing On" plays five weeks later. Various individuals gleefully attempt to sabotage others backstage even as props and pieces of the set malfunction around them.

In Act II we watch the backstage action. In Act III we're viewing "Nothing On" from the front.

Director Ron Bright has assembled a superb ensemble cast. There are no weak links. The interplay in Act II's elaborate comic sequences is especially effective. Several actors stand out due to the complexity of their roles and the physical demands Frayn's script places upon them.

>> Brent Yoshikami (Garry Lejeune/Roger Tramplemain) is perfect as the foppish Tramplemain, and just as good playing an actor who can't keep his personal problems from disrupting his performance, and who also must try to salvage the show.

>> Clara Ann Chorley (Brooke Ashton/Vicki) is mesmerizing, displaying great skill as a physical comedienne and giving the "sex farce" angle visual sizzle. Her costume for most of the show consists of bright white heels, a bra, garter belt and granny panties. But there's more to Chorley's performance than the "eye candy" angle. She succeeds in making Vicki and Brooke distinct, and both become memorable components of the production.

>> Derek Calibre (Frederick Fellowes/Philip Brent) pulls off successively more demanding bits of physical comedy as Fellowes, an actor prone to nosebleeds.

>> David Schaeffer (Selsdon Mowbray/Burglar) develops subtle details in the character of the slightly alcohol-impaired Mowbray.

>> Ghislaine Sopher-Phillips (Dotty Otley/Mrs. Clackett) provides a sound foundation as Mrs. Clackett and adds to the comic mayhem as Dotty Otley in Act II. Anne Marie MacPherson (Belinda Blair/Flavia Brent) is suitably light and bright as Flavia while establishing Belinda as a more capable sort. Jeff Muse (crew member Tim Allgood) and Kayce Erwin (Poppy Norton-Taylor) complete the excellent ensemble. They, too, have key showcase moments in the show.

Lloyd S. Riford III (set and lighting design) has done a magnificent job in designing a two-sided set that is broken down and reversed during intermissions.

Despite the excellent cast, Riford's set and fine work by the prop crew, there are times when "Noises Off" loses its momentum. No comic bit and no comic premise should be stretched longer than it takes to develop the idea and get the laugh, and restraint must be used in repeating successful ideas. Act I and III fall short in ways that create the feeling of, "OK, we get the joke. Next!"

Act II is the funniest of the three because it offers a broader pallet of comic ideas and faster pace. Although some basic ideas are used several times, there is something fresh to be found in each variation.

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