Codswallop

Everything that can go wrong, does go wrong, in StageDoor’s production of the British farce “Noises off.” (Left to right) are Clint Heyn, Sara Woodyard, Brian Dowling, Meg Chilton, Gin Walker and Stephen Sbanotto. (Photo courtesy of Pro Pics Photography)

Where are the sardines?

How would you like to see the same act from a play, performed three times, back to back, where you will get an answer to the question “Where are the sardines?” Sounds boring, yes?

Not if you are watching StageDoor Theatre’s current production of “Noises Off” by Michael Frayn.

The show is a play within a play, about a group of British actors rehearsing and then performing a British sex farce called “Nothing On.” You see one act of the play “Nothing On” three times: the final dress rehearsal, on the road for a month and then on the road for 10 weeks.

And you see “Nothing On” from the front of the living room set, and then from a backstage view (where everyone is ready to kill each other) and one last time from the front, were everything finally goes codswallop.

Yes, the massive, two-story set revolves, from front to back, twice, and the changeover is as much fun as watching the show.

Typical of British farce, the show is very fast paced, with actors coming and going through doors, missing each other by seconds, trousers dropping and a scantily-clad woman, and with a lot of slapstick. Think Benny Hill on steroids. Act Two is a masterpiece of pantomime and prop comedy, highlighted by an axe, which travels from actor to actor; in short, they are ready to kill each other.

The show was directed by Jay Louden and stars an ensemble cast including Allistair Basse as the temperamental director of “Nothing On:” Jeremy Carr as the very harried stage manager; Meg Chilton, who is an inexperienced actor from London; Brian Dowling, who breaks out in a nosebleed at the slightest hint of violence; Anakay Hanold, the assistant stage manager, who is emotional, skittish and overly-sensitive, and part of a love triangle and, by act two, pregnant with the director’s baby; Clint Heyn as an elderly, half-deaf “professional” with a long, storied career and a drinking problem; Stephen Shanotto, the play’s leading man; Sara Woodard who may be the only sane member of the “Nothing On” cast; and Gin Walker, who steals the show as a Cockney maid with a propensity of forgetting when a plate of sardines needs to be onstage or off.

I was blown away by the show. It’s not an easy show to pull off by a community theatre group. It’s not an easy show to mount by a professional troupe. I’ve seen the show six times in my life, and other than the original road show out of Broadway back in the 80s, this was the best effort I’ve seen yet. I was skeptical that a community theatre could pull this off, but they did a bang-up job of the whole thing, both cast and stage crew.

And don’t take this reviewer’s word for it. The audience is the final judge of a show, and the they were laughing their bums off.

The play runs two more weekends, Sept. 13, 14, 20 and 21, and curtain is at 7:30 p.m. There will be 2 p.m. matinees on Saturday, Sept. 14 and Sunday, Sept. 22. Tickets are $22-$25, and reservations can be made by visiting StageDoor’s website at https://www.stagedoortheatre.org/.

The show is recommended for adult audiences, in short, don’t bring the kiddies; unless you want to be answering a lot of questions on the ride home in the car.

StageDoor is located in the Aspen Park Village Shopping Center, 25797 Conifer Road in Conifer.

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