This is the third production of Noises Off that I have seen, not including the 1992 film version, and it never ceases to amaze me. It’s a highwire act of a show requiring the actors to perfect the timing of everything down to the split-second. I was excited to see the show again as it’s a favorite, but I wasn’t sure how a community theater would pull off the elaborate set requirements and frankly, that timing. I’m happy to confirm this production is as good as any I’ve ever seen. This spectacular cast doesn’t miss a beat even when those beats begin to come at three beats per second. The New York Post wrote that Noises Off is “The funniest farce ever written” and they may be right. The only show that gives it a run for it’s money that I’ve seen is The Play That Goes Wrong. Interesting that each is center on a theatre production. Laugh for laugh, and for sheer entertainment you cannot top Noises Off at Lakeshore Players. If you aren’t laughing, check your pulse, I’m afraid you may be dead.
The play was written by Michael Frayn in 1982 inspired, according to Wikipedia, by watching a production of one of his earlier farces from the wings. He observed that it was even funnier backstage and resolved that at some point he should write a farce from behind the scenes. What is interesting and what makes the play work so well is that we see the first act of the play three times. The first is the Tech/dress rehearsal, where we see the play from the point of view of the audience. Frayn sets the first Act during rehearsal so that they can start and stop the play within a play. This serves two purposes, first we get to know the actors and their little idiosyncrasies and what their relationships are to each other. We have the usual humor about theatrical types and the frustration of the director trying to corral all of the elements to get through the show once before it actually opens to the public. The second reason is that by stopping and redoing lines of dialogue and discussing what is happening and why within the play, the plot and each characters blocking is cemented in the audience’s mind. It’s important that we have a clear understanding of what is happening onstage in Act 1, because during the intermission the set is completely rotated and we now see the performance four weeks in into the run from backstage. We have to know what is supposed to be happening onstage to really appreciate the humor of the shenanigans backstage where relationship dramas have much of the cast at each other’s throats. Finally after a second intermission in which the set is again rotated so we are seeing it from the audience’s point of view, we see an actual performance of the play three months into, and thankfully, near the end of it’s run. Again, if we didn’t have a clear understanding of what was supposed to be happening in the play within the play, we would be as lost as the poor fictional audience who is experiencing the play for the first time.
With a true ensemble cast such as this you have to choose who was good and who was bad and leave not mention those in the middle or you’d have a ten page review. The problem with this cast is, nobody is bad, in fact nobody is even in the middle, they are all fantastic. So I’m just going to say something about a couple of the performers that did something a little unique from what I’d seen before. Jeffrey Nolan, who plays Tim the Stage Manager, is also the understudy for the male roles in the play brought a different kind of energy to the role. He gets some neat bits that are like silent comedy routines between acts and he plays the roles constant exhaustion in such a way that you feel the character will be scarred for life after this production. Waverly McCollum, plays Brooke the bombshell but inexperienced actress. McCollum plays her to great comic effect as if she’d been cashing in lobotomy coupons. She’s hilarious when just standing still, partly because she’s standing still eating her costume. All of the performers demonstrate a knack for physical comedy and comedic timing, but both Nolan and McCollum get a chance to raise it to another level. Watching Nolan try and set the stage with his last ounces of energy at the beginning of Act 3, or McCollum descend the stairs in Act 1 trying to avoid stepping on her lost contact lens, are moments of comedic brilliance.
Director Greta Grosch puts her comedic sensibilities as a member of Dudley Riggs Brave New Workshop to good use. The staging is fairly well laid out in the script for Noises Off, but it’s her sure sense of what will work character wise that makes this familiar show seem fresh and vibrant. Hats off to Dave Pust for his Set Design. Again, the set is fairly well set by the needs of the script, it varies very little from production to production so it’s in the execution that Pust’s talents shine through. The entire set breaks away into three sections so that it can be pulled apart turned around and reassembled facing the other way, which it does very smoothly and in full view of the audience. Grosch wisely has the actors stay in character whenever they can been seen between acts adding to the feel of a behind the scenes story. Alyssa Kraft’s Lighting Design complete with intentional miscues is spot on as are the props by Brandt Roberts, Costumes by Bronson Talcott, and Sound Design by Nathaniel Glewwe.
Noises Off runs through February 12th at Lakeshore Players Theatre for more information and to purchase tickets go to https://www.lakeshoreplayers.org/noises-off-2022
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