★★★½☆ - Satisfying
There’s an old theatrical tradition that if the Dress Rehearsal is terrible then the Opening Night will be great! Atypically, the manic menagerie of itinerant actors rehearsing a flop called “Nothing’s On” find themselves caught in a time warp of frustration as they have little time left to rehearse and are understaffed. Pratfalls, on and offstage intrigue, and sardines all figure in the plot of this hilarious and comic theatrical romp.
Called “the funniest farce ever written,” playwright Michael Frayn's Noises Off takes a fond look at the follies of theatre folk, whose susceptibility to out-of-control egos, memory loss, and passionate affairs turn every performance into a high-risk adventure. This play-within-a-play captures a touring theatre troupe’s production of Nothing On in three stages: dress rehearsal, the opening performance, and a performance towards the end of a debilitating run. Frayne gives us a window into the inner workings of theatre behind the scenes, progressing from flubbed lines and missed cues in the dress rehearsal to mounting friction between cast members in the final performance. Brimming with slapstick comedy, Noises Off is a delightful backstage farce, complete with slamming doors, falling trousers, and -- of course -- flying sardines!
Director Benjamin Loewy commented: “We have such an incredible cast of comedic actors, and we have utilized their skill set. We have squeezed every ounce out of them to make it more of a visceral experience.”
The talented ensemble -- unquestionably up to the task of pulling off such a frenetic, madcap, screwball comedy – includes Anita Bean, Jacob Moore, Michael Blair, Kate Sirls, Meghan Elizabeth, Adam Dunson, Natalie Senecal, Anthony Barnaby, and Richard Munchkin.
The audience is kept dizzy trying to follow the show business love affairs, jealousy & romance as fittingly directed by Loewy and Maxim Lardent. The production values are solidly fixed within the contemporary setting of the living room of an English country home -- designed in a provincial theatre, both onstage and backstage – by Steve Paladie, with lighting by Dave Clark and costumes by Chelsea Kroh.
Playwright Michael Frayn was born in London in 1933. He began his career as a reporter for the Guardian and later the Observer. After leaving the Observer he continued to write as a columnist as well as publishing novels and plays for television and stage.
Winner of the 1982 Olivier Award for Best Play, and the 1982 London Evening Standard Award for Best Comedy, the New York Times said that Noises Off was "The most dexterously realized comedy ever about putting on a comedy. A spectacularly funny, peerless backstage farce. This dizzy, well-known romp is festival of delirium."
Under the direction of Michael Blakemore, the original production debuted in London in 1982 at the Lyric Theatre and ran for five more years with five different casts. Blakemore opened a second production on Broadway in December of 1983 at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre.