Review: ‘Noises Off’ at Everyman Theatre

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It is always a good time seeing a production of Noises Off, but Everyman Theatre (Everyman) took it to another level last night. If you are a regular theatregoer, it is quite likely you have seen Noises Off before, possibly even several times. The production team and cast at Everyman cranked this show up to eleven, making it a hilarious, new experience for every patron. Noises Off by Michael Frayn and directed by Vincent M. Lancisi opened to an enthusiastic, packed house last night.

Beth Hylton, Bruce Nelson, Danny Gavigan, Deborah Hazlett, Emily Kester, Eric Berryman, and Wil Love. Photo by ClintonBPhotography.

To fully appreciate a production of Noises Off, one must understand its complexity. It is a play in three acts about a company of English actors putting on the show Nothing On. In the first act, we seen them rehearsing on their set the night before their opening. Between the first and second acts, the set must rotate to reveal the “backstage” because the next act takes place during of one of their shows in the middle of their tour. This leads to many hilariously quiet shenanigans as the actors attempt to be quiet backstage as the performance goes on. Then, the set must rotate again for the final act. Once again, we see the actors on their set, but it is now their last stop on the tour and the show, and the cast, are on their last legs. We can only imagine what they’re getting up to backstage, but on stage it quickly becomes first-rate chaos.

Due to this play-within-a-play structure, the actors must portray both their characters in Noises Off and their characters acting as the characters in Nothing On. This means you are hearing American actors playing English actors playing characters with a different English dialect. Throughout the play, the actors have to switch between the two dialects depending on if they are speaking as “themselves” or the “character.” This amazing feat was made possible with the work of Gary Logan, dialect coach. It truly was impressive.

In all honesty, everything about the production was impressive from the design elements, to the direction that led to a reported 152 comedic bits within the show, to the incredible ensemble of actors who put it all on. I cannot stress enough the fantastic attention to detail paid by every single member of this production – Phillip Owen (Sound Design), Lewis Shaw (Fight Choreography), and Jillian Mathews (Props Master). There was even a program for Nothing On included in the show program. The first thing that impressed me, though, was the set design by Resident Designer Daniel Ettinger. Having seen Noises Off a few times, I’d thought there wasn’t much a designer could do with the set since it is so prescribed by the demands of the script. Ettinger proved me wrong. His choice to set the play in the 1970s was bold and refreshing, and his attention to detail made the set pop. The bright colors of the wallpaper and the vibrant view through the windows were very specific and added to the not-even-remotely-controlled chaos that ensues in the show. The stage proscenium even changed from the first act to the third act when the play-within-a-play cast was at different theatres. The set was just beautiful to look at, which made it even more shocking when things start getting broken in the third act.

Emily Kester as Brooke Ashton and Danny Gavigan as Garry Lejeune. Photo by ClintonBPhotography.

Detailed, colorful, and specific are also how I would describe the costume design by Eric Abele. They were so bright and exciting! Abele captured the look of the 1970s and used its wacky colors and patterns to complement the personalities of the characters. I hope actress Emily Kester loved her costume for Brooke Ashton as much as I did. If you’re going to play a character that is in her lingerie for the bulk of a show, at least it can be in the cutest pink, polka-dot nightie and ruffled panties I have ever seen. Kester should also be commended for running up and down and all over that stage in high, albeit extremely cute, heels.

The lighting design by Resident Designer Jay Herzog was excellent. In the first act, when there were actors in the house, he gave us just enough light to highlight the performers, without blinding the audience trying to watch them. I particularly appreciated the lighting for the second act when the scene is set backstage. Herzog did a wonderful job hinting at the darkness of backstage with some dim corners and blue lights hung on the set, while making it still bright enough to catch all the action. The moment that really got me was the beginning of the third act where the house lights came up and down with the play-within-a-play’s false starts. Simply hysterical.

As an actor myself, I am astounded by the work of this remarkable ensemble of actors – Deborah Hazlett (Dotty Otley), Carl Schurr (Lloyd Dallas), Danny Gavigan (Garry Lejeune), Emily Kester (Brooke Ashton), Megan Anderson (Poppy Norton-Taylor), Bruce Randolph Nelson (Frederick Fellowes), Beth Hylton (Belinda Blair), Eric Berryman (Tim Allgood), and Wil Love (Selsdon Mowbray). They managed to keep their energy up throughout this physically and mentally demanding play, and their chemistry was so strong. It was almost as if they truly had been on tour for weeks together. Each actor made a great distinction between the characters as themselves and the characters acting. It was quite fun to watch the quick changes. The deft dialect shifts made these changes impressive. Hazlett and Gavigan, especially, had a great many of these vocal shifts and both were flawless. In particular, Gavigan’s performance as Garry stood out to me because he brought so much more to the character than I’d ever seen before. In previous shows, Garry was played as a one-dimensional, bumbling idiot. Gavigan brought an abundance of charisma to the character, which made him a huge presence on stage and a joy to watch.

Resident Company Members Danny Gavigan, Bruce Randolph Nelson, Deborah Hazlett, Beth Hylton, and Carl Schurr. Photo by ClintonBPhotography.

If you’re looking for a lot of laughs on your night out, look no further. Everyman Theatre delivers that in their delightfully over-the-top production of the most enjoyable chaos that is Noises Off. Those who haven’t seen this show before will be amazed, and those who have will experience comedic bits and moments they haven’t seen before.

Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission and a 10-minute intermission.

Noises Off plays through June 18, 2017 at Everyman Theatre – 315 West Fayette Street, in Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (410) 752-2208, or purchase them online.

Everyman Theatre also has several special performance nights for Noises Off, including a Stoop Storytelling Event on May 22, a pre-show social on June 1, a talk back with the cast on June 8, and more. You can learn more about these terrific events in the Related Events sections on the Everyman website.

LINKS:

‘The Show Must Go On!’ Preview, Part 1: Interview with Everyman Founding Artistic Director Vincent Lancisi

‘The Show Must Go On!’ Preview, Part 2: Interview with Jessica Myles Henkin

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