BWW Review: NOISES OFF First-Rate, Fast, Furiously Funny Farce
NOISES OFF, English playwright Michael Frayn's 1982 farce, had its start as a one-act play called Exits, written in 1977. The title comes from the theatrical stage direction used to indicate when a sound comes from offstage. The three act comedy is three looks at the first act of a British sex farce called "Nothing On". "Nothing On" is your run of the mill sex farce where young girls run around in their underwear, old men drop their pants and a multitude of doors are constantly opening and closing. Act One is the less than perfect final technical rehearsal of the play. Act Two takes place backstage, during a matinee performance a month later, showing the audience the complete chaos that has erupted behind the scenes and is mostly done in silence. Act Three is the final performance of the tour where everything that can possibly go wrong does. The audience never sees the rest of "Nothing On".
There are two quick ways to tell if a play is a farce just by looking at the set. The first is by the number of doors. If there are more than four doors, you can be pretty sure it's a farce. The set for NOISES OFF requires eight, and a window that effectively acts as a ninth entrance point. (The second big clue is when the set has a pouf.) In the small space of City Theatre, that winds up being a set comprised of almost nothing but doors and windows. This is of minor consequence when the show performed in front of it is as fast and funny as this production.
The set itself is a marvel of design engineering, composed of three units that are completely rotated and reversed for the second act. Considering that most productions of NOISES OFF use a turntable, set designer Kakii Keenan has created a marvelously solid looking set that can be completely rotated and reversed in the space of a fifteen minute intermission. The rest of the tech for this production also gets high marks. Scout Gutzmerson's 80's costumes are period perfect right down to Garry's Miami Vice style outfit. The preshow and intermission music sets the time period perfectly with big radio hits of the '80's.
Director J. Kevin Smith has done a great job with this show, especially noticeable in the silent sections of Act Two, where the farcical action gets fast and furious. His choreography of the liquor bottle, a key point in the act, is absolutely brilliant. He obviously has a great affection for this material that shows in his attention to detail and timing and in how he keeps the characters clearly grounded even when they have no dialogue.
The entire cast is wonderful and works together seamlessly. These are some seriously skilled farceurs. Robyn Conner's Dotty Otley is a study in concentration and confusion. Anastasia 'Stacy' Trammell gives us a delightfully bubble headed Brooke, whose blank stares alone elicit laughs. Sean Hennigan is hilarious as the drunken Selsdon. Kevin Anderson, as Freddie, is a rubber faced and bodied comic who absolutely charms the audience with his manic performance. Brent Rose is a quiet riot as the clueless and self effacing Garry. Darren Scharf is terrific as director Lloyd who is always just a moment away from losing his cool.
NOISES OFF is a fast and furiously funny farce and this production of the classic comedy, now onstage at City Theatre, is a first rate production. Laughter is in rather short supply these days and if you could use a good belly laugh, you won't go wrong by spending an evening with this comedy about the comedy of creating live theatre.
NOISES OFF by Michael Frayne
Running Time: Two Hours and Thirty Minutes, including two intermissions
NOISES OFF, produced by City Theatre Company (3823 Airport Boulevard, Austin, TX, 78722).
Thursdays-Sundays, February 16 - March 11, 2018 at 8:00 pm. Sundays at 3:00 pm.
General Seating $15. Center Row Reserved $20-25. Thursday all seats $10.
Tickets at the door $20. Group and student discounts.
Tickets: 512-524-2870 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Website: www.citytheatreaustin.org