By Michael Frayn. Directed by Scott Bellis. An Arts Club Theatre Company production. At the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage on Wednesday, January 29. Continues until February 23
Good things come in threes. And so does great comedy. The Arts Club Theatre Company’s production of Noises Off is a hilarious farce about putting on a play, and the train wreck that can erupt when you combine personal misunderstandings, jealousies, and romantic affairs gone wrong. And in keeping with the rule of three that says a trio of events can achieve ideal comedic effect, the action in Noises Off happens in three acts—a three-part free fall into divinely satisfying chaos.
In this play within a play by Michael Frayn, Lloyd Dallas (Andrew McNee) directs an eccentric group of actors in a play titled Nothing On. Beginning with its dress rehearsal, it’s clear that Nothing On is in rough shape. The actors are constantly forgetting lines and cues, and various personal issues among the cast and crew are pulling focus from the job at hand. Little does anyone know that it will only go downhill from here.
Throughout the next two acts, we follow the run of Nothing On, as the show tours and then finally closes. The romantic rivalries and infighting that distracted the company in Act 1 only continue to escalate. And the slapstick comedy the actors perform on-stage in Nothing On is replicated tenfold in the backstage antics.
This type of ensemble comedy requires mathematically precise timing, with each character’s track carefully plotted within the larger picture. And director Scott Bellis has timed the action so well that the show never misses a beat. The action flows smoothly, like meticulously crafted mayhem.
With the use of a revolving stage, Ted Roberts’s set allows us to enjoy the action on- and off-stage—sometimes simultaneously. Christine Reimer’s costume design nails the show’s ’80s setting—especially enjoyable is the teal jumpsuit worn by Emma Slipp in the role of company star Belinda Blair, not to mention the red blazer and plaid skirt Tess Degenstein sports to play rookie actor Brooke Ashton.
Given how large a role slapstick comedy plays in this show, credit must be given to Mike Kovac and Ryan McNeill Bolton for their excellent fight and physical stage direction. A highlight of the show is a spectacular fall by one character down Roberts's many-staired set.
Among the brilliant ensemble, Nora McLellan is a highlight as poor Tim Allgood, the overworked, underappreciated stage manager with the unfortunate job of holding Nothing On’s company together. Standout performances also include Charlie Gallant’s stellar physical comedy as emotionally unstable actor Garry Lejeune; Degenstein, with her Bambi-like innocence; and Slipp, with a larger-than–life portrayal that screams ’80s soap-opera character.
Noises Off is a delightfully entertaining farce that shines as much for its comedic skill and finesse as for its absurdity and calamity.