I love theatre, travel and short trips. It's great when they can be combined into one weekend.
I just go back from almost Denmark and no jet lag as I spent the weekend in the beautiful Solvang and surrounding area and was enchanted by the little town that is like going out of the country but instead is just a few hours by car from the Bay Area.
Before talking about all of the charm in Solvang and the not-so-far San Luis Obispo, let me tell you of the wonderful theatrical experience of Pacific Coast Theatre's production of "Noises Off!" running through June 29 at Solvang's Festival Theater. (Don't correct me here - it is PCT opts for theatre with an "re" while the SFT likes theat"er".)
The theatre itself is beautiful on its own. It's an outdoor amphitheater with a quaint little picnic area should you want to bring your own meal or buy something from their on-site vendors. Should you be cold and not expecting a chill in June, they are prepared to rent you a blanket just for a few dollars. Additionally, this is reserved seating, so no need to arrive way too early to guarantee your place under the stars.
Speaking of stars, the entire cast of "Noises" are stars in their own right. Maybe they don't have the marquee name of Nathan Lane, but the cast was uniformly excellent, surprising even me who has seen about every musical currently playing on Broadway. It would be a disservice to single out some of the spectacular performers and be way too long of an article to point out each one. So let me just say, no one in "Noises Off!" disappoints. Each a master at the English accent, physical comedy and perfect delivery. So kudos to one and all and special recognition to Paul Barnes who brought together this seasoned cast of performers who is a wonderful theatre troupe, working on most of the PCT's productions.
The show is not one of the most known comedies. But it is one of the funniest plays ever written. When it was on Broadway, it did win a Tony Award nomination for Best Play and was a moderate hit when it was adapted to celluloid. While the movie had an all star cast, the show doesn't really need it. The dialog and situations created by writer Michael Frayn are enough.
Frayn got the idea of this show one day as he was laughing at all of the backstage antics going on at some show, which he thought was more entertaining than the play itself. So he created a theatre world scenario in which a performers is preparing for opening night and while the play is adequate to say the list, the interactions and dramas that unfold behind the scenes is comedy gold. The term "noises off" is a theatre used for the sounds heard backstage that might be a distraction to the audience. With that in mind, while our characters do their best to keep quiet, it's a regular soap opera backstage, causing more than its share of drama to carry over on-stage and making for an extremely fun night at the theatre. All of this leads to quite a long and funny scene in which the actors are miming their feelings and trying to communicate without talking.
"Noises Off!" is easy to be a sure-fire hit simply based upon the dialog. But without having an ensemble that is just as good at physical humor, it could be a miss. But this "Noises" is a winner from start to finish.
As the show closes Sunday, don't wait and get tickets and information at www.pcpa.org.
Seeing "Noises Off!" would just be the icing in the cake to the charming Solvang, which takes you on a trip to Denmark without leaving California. There is a very charming downtown area that features a wide variety of Danish bakeries and a few authentic restaurants, including the Bit 'o Denmark, which is so real that local Danes stop in for a drink. We didn't get a chance to try aebelskivers, which is a Danish treat much like a donut that heavier like a pancake and in talking to the locals, covered in a raspberry jam and ice cream or powered sugar. We just didn't have the appetite for it as we sampled all the food to take with his on our "Noises Off!" picnic...and you know I must have been full when I had to room for a dessert with ice cream. But this sounds like a delicious reason to return to Sovang!
Besides loving Solvang (which is Dutch for "sunny fields") we spent a little time in San Luis Obispo, known as SLO to locals. While we were hard pressed to find an African American or gay in Solvang (even though I counted 11 possible GLBT people at the theatre), they seemed a bit more open in SLO, especially with a Gay Pride Weekend coming July 11 which will feature a comedy concert by the amazing Margaret Cho.
But SLO has a great downtown area, filled with bars, restaurants and boutiques. Our host suggested Big Sky for breakfast and we were so happy with the choice. Not just for the great food, but the restaurant has a great expression which is on their coffee cup and now forever in my brain: "One big sky covers us all equally."
And if that doesn't make us all feel welcome, then nothing well.