It’s been nearly a decade since Marshall Murray exploded onto the local theater scene as the star of “Honk!” Now, appearing in “Noises Off!” — this summer’s Drama Dock production — Vashon’s own Dick Van Dyke is back and he has never been better.
For younger readers, Dick Van Dyke was a gifted physical comedian, an expert of pratfalls and pranks. While Murray is also skilled at drama, “Noises Off!” gives him the perfect stage to show us what he can do, whether it is with a sheet, an ax, a plate of sardines or a staircase.
Murray is joined by his wife and wildly talented actress in her own right, Stephanie Murray, taking on the role played by Carol Burnett long ago in this popular madcap play within a play. She is the heart of the play and has some fantastic moments of comedy as well, particularly in an extended scene when the actors are “off-stage” and cannot talk.
Local stalwart Chaim Rosemarin is also spot-on in the role of the director, barking out orders and steamrolling over the emotions of the characters. It was wonderful to see former “theater kids” Coriel Silkett, Max Lopuszynski and Joy Ghigleri all grown up and playing adults in the cast. Lopuszynski engages in some wonderful physical comedy with Murray. Dianna Daniel and Peter Kreitner are funny and reliable in their roles, and James Norton rounds out the excellent cast.
For those who are not familiar with the acclaimed comedy, “Noises Off!” gives us a play but also a play within a play. We see a group of actors first as they rehearse a play, then from behind the scenes, and again as they perform at the end of the run. Each time, we are seeing different back stories and motivations from the actors with wonderful bits causing mayhem, from love triangles to lost contact lenses to Murray’s character never finishing his sentences.
This is not an easy show. People do pratfalls, faces are slapped and pants are dropped. It is comic timing at its most difficult, and no one is better at directing this brand of comedy than Vashon’s longtime theater director Susan Hanson. Watching Hanson energetically run around on opening night in her “Noises Off!” T-shirt, it is hard to believe she has been directing theater on the island for 30 years, between the high school and Drama Dock. The island owes her gratitude for a lot of laughter.
The set is full of doors and stairs that are meant to pivot as our view of the actors goes from front of house to behind the stage. Somehow this is all pulled off and works perfectly. This is the untold story of community theater — volunteers who come together, work tirelessly and all too often miss the applause. It’s always a challenge, but “Noises Off!” has a set that is much harder than most. The set was designed by Craig Hanson (husband of the director, who has spent much of his life designing sets for his wife, as the director often jokes). The construction lead was Rob Piston. At last Friday’s opening, the entire set crew was asked to come on stage and take a bow. It took them months to build the set, and they deserved the glory.
One quibble: There is clearly a need for new faces in the local theater scene. With the exception of brave and talented newcomer James Norton, the cast is made up of actors who have been in many shows during the years, and the production team and front-of-house are all long-time Drama Dock people, as well. This is not bad, as these are the people who have kept the organization going for so long. But it would be great to see some new people getting involved in theater as the island continues to change and grow. And honestly, who wouldn’t want to play with such wonderful players as the cast of “Noises Off?”
But this is just a small quibble. “Noises Off!” is a fun and delightful romp in a time when many of us need simple laughter, and much of it comes from watching Marshall Murray do his stuff. A little Dick Van Dyke, a little John Cleese, a little early Chevy Chase, he is a gifted physical comedian, a hysterical mimic with impressive timing.
Performances of “Noises Off” will continue at Vashon High School on Aug. 9, 10, 11 and 12. Show times are 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets, available at Vashon Bookshop and Brown Paper Tickets, are $18 for seniors, students and Drama Dock members, and $22 general admission. On Thursday, Aug. 9, the show is “pay what you can.”
— Lauri Hennessey, who has frequently performed on Vashon as a singer and actress, is also a former columnist for The Beachcomber. She currently works as vice president of the Department of Engagement at Woodland Park Zoo.