It’s hard to ruin a very funny play.
So when the Shelton Theater decided to do “Noises Off,” I was a bit nervous. Sure the words are so funny that you can sit in a room and read Michael Frayn’s script and laugh your butt off. But the staging and sets are also important to the show. The small, intimate Shelton stage just might have bitten off more than it can handle.
Surprisingly not. I missed it when the Shelton put it on last year, but it must have played to some success for it has come back so soon. Surprisingly, the small stage seems to be able to fit the elaborate set which needs to shift a few times in the show as both the front and the back of the set are shown at some point as the story is about all of the antics on putting on a play including a lot of action happening “backstage.” Set designers Steve Coleman and Adam Stowers as well as director Matt Shelton deserve a lot of recognition for being able to bring a bigger than life set to a more intimate setting without losing any of the set's importance along the way.
To succeed, “Noises Off” also must have a great ensemble cast as there needs to be so much trust among the actors and there is not only a lot of physical comedy but a great deal of interaction between characters. In such a show, every actor needs to carry their weight otherwise it will effect the entire piece. The Shelton cast more than excels.
One of the most fun actors on the Bay Area stages, Rodney Rhoda Taylor, takes on one of the leads, portraying Dotty. While Taylor often plays drag queens and cross dressers, this role is actually suppose to be a woman’s role and one thinks Taylor is playing a female. But to add a bit of a San Francisco twist, they do not hide the fact that Taylor is a man, often refer to him as a “he” when he’s on stage as Dotty. This adds a whole new twist to the show as many characters are having romantic affairs and this certainly adds a gay edge to the entire show.
While the entire cast is wonderful, I would like to point out Maximilian Hersey plays a cooler, edgier director of the show within a show. This part in other productions was very straight-laced and Hersey is anything but. Also, Antonio Ruiz Jr. as Gary has most of the show's pratfalls and manages to remain sexy even while falling down stairs. Further, Lauren LeBeouf, who plays the sexy role of Brooke, manages to draw attention to herself even when she has no lines due to her facial expressions and are sexy cleavage.
“Noises Off” plays through Oct. 25 at San Francisco’s Shelton Theater, near Union Square. Go to www.sheltontheater.org for tickets and more information.