DUAL CRITICS REVIEW: Phase Eight Theatre Company Keeps You Laughing with Noises Off

The Phase Eight Theater opened “Noises Off,” Michael Frayn’s 1982 play, on April 6th, 2018. The comedy, which runs through April 15th, is being staged at WJCT’s broadcasting facility in Downtown Jacksonville.

“Noises Off” is about a second-rate company of American actors who are staging “Nothing On,” a touring British sex farce. Mercifully, they don’t even attempt British accents. It is the funniest show we have seen this year and we bet it will be the most hilarious show you will see this year.

The play is structured as a play within a play. Act One begins late at night, during the final rehearsal prior to opening night. We have six neurotic actors, a couple of worn-out stage managers, and a director who is losing his cool while facing an all-night rehearsal with his weary cast.   

Act Two takes place a month later, backstage at a “Nothing On” matinee. The set has been turned around, and the audience has only brief glimpses of the performance on stage. The real action is taking place backstage, where relationships between the temperamental, lustful, and excitable cast members have deteriorated. This is a farce. Doors are opened and slammed closed. Chaos ensues.   

Act Three brings us the very last performance of “Nothing On,” which has been touring for ten weeks. As you might expect, relationships have not improved, and everything goes very wrong. Since we have a longtime commitment to avoiding spoilers, we’ll leave the conclusion for you to discover.   

Director JaMario Stills puts his cast through the mill throughout, as he has them running up and down stairs, opening and slamming doors, and dressing and undressing, all combined with split second entrances and exits. Yes, these elements of traditional farce will keep you laughing for two full hours.

Farces are ensemble productions, and can only be done with a cast that works exceptionally well together. “Noises Off” offers an additional challenge, as most of the actors portray totally different characters in “Nothing On.”  In “Noises Off,” Kate McManus appears as Dotty Otley, a leading actress who is somewhat forgetful. Jack Permenter plays the somewhat shallow-brained Gary, who physically bounces around the stage like a rubber ball. Rich Pintello as Fredrick Fellows is rather dim-witted as well, fears violence, and spends a lot of time tending to nose bleeds.

Actress Miles Laura Para appears as Belinda, Fred‘s girl friend, who is probably the sanest character in the play, although she gossips a bit and isn’t much of a housewife. Oliva Chernychevr is Brooke Ashton, a not overly bright sexpot who keeps losing her contact lenses but fulfills the farce requirement of having a gorgeous scantily clad female in the cast.

Ms. Kristen Walsh as Poppy and Terrance Scott as Tim contribute to the zany crew as stage managers. Hays Jacobs portrays Lloyd Dallas, the director of “Nothing On.” He is slightly randy and often frustrated, especially when he joins the ensemble backstage during Act Two. Tyrone Thornhill appears as Selsdon, an elderly actor with a drinking problem who is always searching for a bottle.

The show’s antics are performed on a marvelous set designed by Brady Corum, which recreates a two-storied English Manor home with staircases, a balcony, and many doors. We have attended a number of events at WJCT over the years but this the first time we’ve seen a two-story construction.  The set is wheeled, which allows turning between acts, and is built to withstand extensive physical stress.   

Costumes were supplied by the actors, with guidance by Director Stills and Assistant Director Arianna Valeria Rodriquez. The lighting design was by Demetris Ballard.

Don’t miss “Noises Off,” we guarantee you will be dazzled by this frantic but joyous evening of theatre, and will laugh throughout the performance. For additional information for this production and upcoming shows, see the Facebook page for the Phase Eight Theatre Company and visit their website at phaseeight.org.

About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.