Monday, November 26, 2007

Noises Off

(the review)

Done right, Michael Frayn’s hilarious farce, “Noises Off” is probably the funniest comedy you’ll ever see on any stage. It requires impeccable split-second timing, incredible agility, a breakneck pace, and even for an American cast, a proper British accent.

Set designer John Iacovelli describes it as “daunting for even professionals.”

Thanks to director Jules Aaron and a fabulous cast, “Noises Off” is “done right” on UCD’s Main Stage, where those who will be fortunate enough to obtain tickets (opening night was nearly sold out) will have the opportunity to laugh until their sides ache until December 2.

“Noises Off” (which refers to sounds which are meant to be heard from offstage) is the story of a hapless English acting troupe who are touring a production of a farce called “Nothing On.” It is a comedy in three acts, the first of which is the dress rehearsal for the play, which is opening the next day. Matt Rapore is perfect as the director, “Lloyd,” who sits in the audience and despairs of ever getting things right before opening night.

Act 2, which is almost more mime than actual recited lines, takes place at a matinee performance one month later, as seen from backstage, when the cast has been together long enough that interpersonal relationships are starting to interfere with the performance on stage. The stage manager, Poppy (Kate McGrath) gets a chance to shine in Act 2, and shine she does, suitably harried by the antics of the actors, and struggling with her own personal problems.

By Act 3, the tour has fallen apart and everyone is just trying to get through the last performance, which they barely do. It’s hard to know which is the funnier, Act 2 or Act 3. There are also a lot of sardines involved.

When I interviewed the actors a week ago, I learned that some had extensive stage experience, and at least one had never been on stage in a performance before. Director Aaron has created such a well-run machine that it would be impossible to pick out the veterans from the neophytes. All turn in excellent performances.

Amy Kronzer, as Dotty/Mrs. Clackett (the former being her real name and the latter her name in the play within the play) is an excellent character actress. The young Kronzer was completely believable as the over-the-hill dotty Dotty, who can never quite remember her lines or her blocking. Dotty is the anchor around which most of the action revolves and Kronzer takes her job of being very funny very seriously.

John Crosthwait is the elderly, alcoholic, nearly-deaf Selsdon, who plays a Burglar in the play and who really isn’t ever sure where he is or what he’s doing. Crosthwait could not be better at bringing this character to life.

Looking better than anyone should look in lingerie is Emily Somers as the empty-headed Brooke/Vicki. Somers (who assures me she really is a brunette) is the ideal vacuous blonde, obsessed with her looks and her figure and oblivious to everything around her.

Samuel Hardie is hilarious as the inarticulate Gary/Roger, who thinks he is making helpful suggestions, but who never actually finishes a thought. His is an amazingly athletic role and some of the things he is able to do are incredible. Gary, perhaps more than most, needs to be razor sharp, and Hardie is.

Belinda/Flavia is the peacemaker. She is the one who always tries to calm people but doesn’t help much when she spreads gossip about her fellow cast members. Alice Vasquez handles this task quite well. She may not have the same amount of slapstick that most of her fellow cast members do, but she’s perfectly suited for the part.

Ben Moroski is the mild-mannered Frederick/Philip, who is susceptible to nosebleeds at the mere mention of violence, yet manages to have several pratfalls of his own throughout the evening.

Matthew Kronzer is very funny as the laconic Tim, the overworked stagehand / bookkeeper / understudy.

An imposing solidly built set is integral to the performance of this multi-door comedy and designer John Iacovelli’s set fills the bill magnificently. Stage manager Emily Hartman, whose job it is to keep everything running smoothly is an unsung heroine of this play and must be given kudos for a job well done.

While a review doesn’t generally mention the printed program, this one, by Maish Simon, Lily Wong, Melanie B. Glover and Janice Bisgaard is not to be missed–be sure to read it carefully.

They say laughter is great medicine. If such is the case, this production of “Noises Off” is the perfect therapy for the woes of your day to day life!

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