The ferociously funny play Noises Off!, written by Michael Frayn, is being performed at Way Off Broadway Dinner Theatre in Frederick, MD. The show premiered at the Lyric Theatre in London in 1982, and was directed by Michael Blakemore. It then transferred to the Savoy Theatre in the West End, and ran until 1987 with five successive casts, and went on to win the Evening Standard Award for Best Comedy. A production directed a second time by Blakemore opened on Broadway in 1983 at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, where it ran for a total of 553 performances. A recent critically acclaimed revival by Roundabout Theatre ended its successful run on March 13, 2016.
According to the Way Off Broadway program: “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. Michael Frayn 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!”
Noises Off! is a true ensemble piece that the entire talented cast tackles with gusto. Each actor gives that little something special in his/her performance that elicits many laughs. An example is the running gag of ‘sardines,’ which starts off the lunacy in the first five minutes by Mrs. Clackett, played hysterically by Nancy Jones. (She also plays Dotty Otley). Jones did not play Mrs. Clackett over-the-top, and subtleness in her performance and her facial expressions alone said it all. It’s a funny and brilliant performance.
Matt Bannister has some serious acting chops as he plays Lloyd Dallas, who is the director of the play. His best moments come when he becomes horrified as he realizes just how unprepared his actors truly are for Opening Night. He has a running joke with flowers in the second act that Bannister plays to the hilt. His character Lloyd is also in an unfortunate love triangle with Brooke and Poppy, which produces a lot of anger, confusion, and laughs.
Brooke Ashton/Vicki is played with side-splitting humor by Sarah Melinda. Brooke is a not-so-good actress who lacks experience and has probably managed to get her acting roles due to her good looks. Her ongoing saga involves her contact lenses. There was one point in the show where she rolled her eyes and it had me cracking up. Sarah was superb in both of her roles, and her shrieks and cries were so convincing. Brooke is in love with Lloyd which presents some issues – to say the least.
Poppy Norton-Taylor, who is the Assistant Stage Manager, is played by Tamarin K. Ythier. Yhtier had me howling with her over-the-top acting. Poppy is lovesick over Lloyd (who isn’t?) and loses her cool many times throughout the play because of it. Her running joke involves notifying the audience when the play will begin after the intermission.
Garry Lejeune/Roger Tramplemain is played by Jordan B. Stocksdale. His moments to shine involved falling down stairs time and time again. His interactions with Brooke in Act One are highly amusing, and he loses his temper when he misunderstand’s Freddy’s relationship with Dotty in Act Two.
Brian Kaider plays Frederick Fellows and Phillip Brent. The poor guy suffers from nose bleeds, has to play a Sheik, and gets caught in a ‘brief’ moment of hilarity. Kaider has great comic timing.
Belinda Blair/Flavia Brent, the most sane one of the crazy bunch, is played by Jessica Billones. Billones plays Belinda with a smooth sophistication at first in Act One but it all goes downhill in Act Two. She gets frazzled and unravels over some liquor bottles being left around the set and watching her have a nervous breakdown
Selsdon Mowbray/The Burglar is played by Dino P. Coppa, and he had me hook, line, and sinker from the get-go as the whiskey bottle-chasing Selsdon. This is a very energetic and physical role that Coppa played effortlessly, with his great comic timing.
Tim Allgood, the Stage Manager who understudies Selsdon and Freddy, is played by Matt Provance. He gets walked all over by Lloyd the director, and really wants to go on for the roles he understudies. Provance plays him rather timid, which works well in Act One. In Act Two, he becomes frantic and disoriented when asked to perform specific tasks for Lloyd, where you get to see his comedic talents and his frustration.
There is not a lot of space on the stage but Scenic Designer Justin M. Kiska utilizes every inch of it. This massive set gets turned around three times during the show. It starts with the dress rehearsal set that consists of seven doors, a Victorian couch, and a glass looking window that had a nice touch of greenery outside (I enjoyed all the set dressing as well). When the set gets turned around for act two, it’s a very authentic looking backstage.
The costumes, lighting, and sound designs were all created by Bill Kiska and were really effective. Kudos to the cast that had to use and move the props all through the performance. Everyone dealt with them swimmingly.
The first act of the show took a while to introduce the characters, and the pacing suffered, but the second and third acts flew by, due to the fine direction by Justin M. Kiska. Kiska had a great cast to work with and they all delivered fine performances.
Noises Off! is not an easy show to pull off. It’s repetitive, demands comic timing, and places so many physical demands on the cast. In Way Off Broadway’s production, this cast comes through with flying colors – I mean- flying sardines.
Running Time: Two and a half hours, including one 15-minute intermission after the first act and one brief intermission between the second and third acts.
Noises Off! plays through April 23, 2016 at Way Off Broadway Dinner Theatre & Children’s Theatre – 5 Willowdale Drive, in The Willowtree Plaza, in Frederick, MD. For tickets and reservations, call the box office at (301) 662-6600.