June 18 — July 25, 1999
Back Stage West: Critic’s Pick
Written by:Enzo Cormann
Translated by Priscilla and Michael Sheringham
Directed by Frédérique Michel
Production Design by Charles A. Duncombe, Jr.
Produced by Stephen Pocock
Cast: Jeff Boyer, John Burton, Victoria Coulson, Liz Hight, Elizabeth Oakes, Mark Phelan, Stephen Pocock, Anna Pond, Paradorn Thiel, Doria Valenzuela, Erin Vincent
Back Stage West
Review by Anne Louise Bannon
“I am constantly and consistently amazed by the work done by City Garage. Its current production, Noises, by French Playwright Enzo Cormann, is basically 90-odd minutes of watching petty, nasty people with too much money on their hands (and snorting the coke to prove it) getting progressively more drunk and more spiteful. Not exactly my cup of tea, and yet, under Frederique Michel’s beautifully paced direction, it works, and it works well.
Often enough, I will enjoy a show in the moment but, upon reflection afterwards, feel like I wasn’t fed enough, as if there wasn’t enough there to grab onto. The reverse inevitably happens with a City Garage show: I may feel a little antsy at first, waiting for the play to find its direction, but by the end I am completely drawn in, and on reflection afterwards I’m hard pressed to edit down the many, many thoughts and feelings I have to fit in this small review space.
Noises, while somewhat straightforward, is much more like the jazz riffs Cormann has based it on. It is noisy, seemingly without direction, and there are no conclusions to be made. Even as the relationships among the four couples disintegrate, you suspect that most of them will repeat the same sordid pattern soon enough.
Playing drunkenness is no mean trick. It’s too easy to fall into stereotypes, not to mention having to be under perfect control while creating the illusion of a total lack of control. Doria Valenzuela, as Vera, one of the wives, nails it right on the head, so much so that one almost wonders if she has indeed been drinking — which is impossible, because she can still hold for the many stylized freeze sections that pop up through the play.
The rest of the cast is equally strong, from Stephen Pocock as Hugo, a famous writer facing terminal writer’s block, to Mark Phelan as the charming bastard movie producer, Will, to everyone, really. It’s an incredibly tight ensemble, each piece fitting together perfectly.
If I have to pick on something, there were the periodically late light cues on the night reviewed. But the set, by Charles A. Duncombe, Jr., is perfect, as are Michele Gimgenbre’s elegant costumes. Either these people have a terrific budget, or they really know how to make a set and clothes look like they do.
But a lot of praise goes to Michel, also the company’s artistic director. She not only has a real knack for picking the best of offbeat modern drama out there — she can make it work, which is saying a great deal.