Tonight I went to see the Palo Alto High School theatre production of Noises Off.
The short version of the following is that it was great.
And if you're local, you have one more chance to see it: their final performance is this coming Sunday afternoon, two days from now, at 2 p.m. You can get tickets online by following the above link, or in the theatre lobby within the hour before the show. You should totally go to this if you can.
I was a little apprehensive. I saw a brilliant production of the show (in college), then I saw the movie (which I thought was only so-so), and then I saw a professional (I think?) production in San Francisco in 2004, which was good but I think I didn't love it. (My memory of my reaction to that last one is hazy.) So I thought there was a good chance that I wouldn't like this production all that much.
Still, I have many fond memories of theatre at Paly. I did stage tech there for four years, worked in one capacity or another on most of the shows we did during that time, was stage manager and tech director for various shows junior and senior year. But I haven't been back since graduation. (Well, it's possible that I went back during college, to see friends who were still at Paly, but I don't remember doing so.) So I figured that even if the show wasn't very good, it would be nicely nostalgic for me.
And I needn't have worried. The show was delightful.
It is high school theatre, but it's very good high school theatre. The comic timing wasn't always perfect, but it was mostly excellent. A couple of the actors seemed a little off to me, but most of them were really good and very believable. A couple of fight moments looked very fake, but a couple of others were just about perfect. I didn't see the axe toss, so I don't know whether they actually did that or not (there's an awful lot going on at once during Act II), but I nearly fell out of my chair laughing at the rest of the axe stuff.
(I should add, about Act II, that much of the front-of-stage dialogue wasn't very clearly audible. I'm not sure how that's traditionally handled. I think it would have worked a little better if it had been more audible, because it would've helped us keep track of where everyone was theoretically supposed to be, and because I think Act III works best when the audience has had a little more practice hearing how it's supposed to go. But this wasn't a serious flaw, just mildly disappointing.)
And almost everything about the show was really fluid, the way I think this show has to be to work. There are an amazing number of moving parts, things to be put in the right (and the wrong) places, people to be gotten in place and sometimes hilariously misplaced. There were a few moments where momentum got lost (and a few moments in Act II where there was so much going on that it got a little muddy), but not many.
Oh, and the set! One can't discuss a Noises Off production without talking about the set. The set looked so solid that I was sure it couldn't be on wheels, that something else must be going on. But no, during the first intermission (and then again during the second one, of course) they did indeed rotate the whole set on its wheels. I remember building flats for that theatre, and seeing entire walls shudder when doors got closed onstage; I was really impressed with their ability to put together a set that could stand up to dozens of slammed doors with nary a shiver.
More generally, the tech was good. Going into Act III, I realized that I had paid no attention to the lighting at all, and reminded myself to do so, and then completely forgot about it. So it did its job, as far as I was concerned, by being subtle enough to not be noticed.
There's lots more good stuff I could say about the show. For example, though I'm no expert on British accents, I thought these were quite good. And all of the blocking and moving around went pretty much flawlessly. And the audience was fairly large and enthusiastic, which always helps.
Anyway, overall I would say it was extremely good for high school theatre, and very good for theatre of any kind.
So if you're in the area, and you have a few hours to spare on Sunday afternoon, go see it. (I should mention that it's a fairly long show; I think with intermissions it went about three hours.) I would be going again if I weren't going to be in Chicago by then.