From the moment Shelburne Players announced “Noises Off” as its spring 2019 production, there has been a buzz.
“Funniest play I ever saw;” “Remember how they flipped the scenery so the audience saw the action backstage;” “Can’t wait to see it again.”
Well, the buzz has continued and proved to be totally deserved as the Shelburne Players, from talented cast to creative set designers and hardworking stage crew, delighted full house crowds on their first weekend of the 37-year-old play. The good news is that there are three more performances: April 12, 13 and 14.
Of course much credit is due to playwright Michael Frayn, who wrote witty dialogue, perfect for its British characters with their many accents, and a constantly surprising and engaging series of coincidences, misunderstandings and even pratfalls (with sardines!).
A talented cast, some familiar faces and some new ones to the Shelburne Town Gym stage, mastered the challenge of telling the story of an itinerant group of actors rehearsing (and then performing) a play-within-a-play called “Nothing’s On.” They handled a lot of running up and down stairs, timing of split-second entrances and exits, and evolution from polite, though confused, conversation to jealousy, and fisticuffs.
Under the direction of Kate Lariviere (who remembers playing the housekeeper in the play in high school), the farce delighted the audience. Jamie Polli, who audiences will remember as half of “The Odd Couple,” the second play Shelburne Players presented in 2002, returned to the Shelburne stage with charm and charisma in the role of the realtor using a property under his care for a mid-day tryst with Vicki, played to ditzy perfection by Linda Kindsvatter, who was a member of last fall’s production of “Sleeping Indoors.”
Eric Reid-St. John made his Players’ debut in the role of Philip Brent, owner of the mansion who hopes the tax people won’t find out that he isn’t in Spain, and his wife was played by Jill Silvia, who was most recently seen in “Dixie Swim Club.”
Dick Hibbert, who has directed three Shelburne Players productions as well as having played a role in “Rumors,” was very funny as a burglar who thinks he is breaking into a deserted mansion, only to find it full of people.
Key to the lively and hilarious story were Jillian Torres as Mrs. Clackett, the housekeeper whose duties included replenishing the supply of sardine snacks, and the battle waged by David Belvedere as director of this confused, increasingly frustrated and combative troupe of actors as they tour the English countryside with their “Nothing’s On” production.
A plus for a community theatre production is that “Noises Off” ensures there are no “small roles.” Su Reid-St. John as Poppy Norton Taylor, the stage manager, and Shannon Lowe as Tim Allgood, both earned lots of laughs in the second and third acts as they attempted to bring order out of the chaos.
The audience was captivated as they watched the chaos of a rehearsal, then the even more chaotic backstage challenges of the confused and increasingly disorganized cast. And most captivating to watch was the amazing set designers Roger and Betsy Howland and Sue Martin (who was also Producer) and their high energy crew between acts maneuvering the huge sections of the set, transforming the Act One living room of the mansion into the Act Two backstage and then back to living room for Act Three.
A great performance that deserved its standing ovation, and deserves full house crowds again this weekend. Tickets at www.shelburneplayers.com