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Review: NOISES OFF at Garden Theater

Comedic cast, choreography, and construction at the core of NOISES OFF

Review: NOISES OFF at Garden Theater

Chances are director Edward Carignan has never been a part of a production as wildly chaotic as NOTHING'S ON, the play which provides the backdrop for Short North Stage's production of NOISES OFF. The fictional play within a play has enough egos, pratfalls, romance, and mistaken identities to make any director's hair go white.

Or in the case of Carignan, who plays director Lloyd Dallas, a shade of nut brown.

The Short North Stage presents British playwright Michael Frayn's farce involving a hapless cast and crew from Sept. 2 to 19 at the Garden Theater (1187 North High Street in downtown Columbus).

To celebrate the opening of its 10th season, Short North Stage collected a talented cast, many of whom are veterans of previous SNS productions. The show is without a central character, allowing all nine actors to share the spotlight. While it is listed as a comedy, the show is as finely choreographed as any musical as well as being a monumental achievement of stage design.

NOISES OFF follows six quirky actors, a luckless director, and two overworked stagehands as they try to pull off the farce comedy without killing each other or going insane. The first act involves a dress rehearsal of the show before opening night, the second act takes place during the show's tour, and the third act is the show's finale. By the time one gets to the third act, the audience knows the lines of NOTHING'S ON better than the actors in it.

"That's what it's all about, doors and sardines," the exasperated Dallas (Carignan) shouts out to the fretful and forgetful Dotty Otley (Blythe Coons). "Getting on, getting off. Getting the sardines on, getting the sardines off. That's farce. That's the theatre."

Coons is masterful as an aging starlet, who can't keep her actions and her lines straight. Luke Bovenizer and Tess Marshall play Frederick Fellowes and Belinda Blair respectively. Fellowes is a naïve actor with a penchant for bloody noses and accidents while Blair might be the closest thing to a sane person in a show of chaos. Michael Liebhauser and Lisa Glover portray Garry Lejeune and Brooke Ashton, who overact every action as if they were playing to the back of the house in a hockey arena. Jonathan Putnam takes on the role of bumbling boozer Selsdon Mowbray, who is known for missing cues and hiding liquor bottles on stage.

Trying to wrangle in the posse of actors are lusty director Dallas (Carignan), frazzled stage manager Poppy Norton Taylor (Eli Brickey), and ham-fisted stagehand Tim Allgood (Joe Gallagher).

The second act displays the same scene as the first act but with a view from backstage. It is so perfectly choregraphed that a theatergoer described it as like watching a music-less ballet of slamming doors, skewed stage entrances, and misogynistic mayhem as the cast members find out who has coupled up with who.

The final act shows the same scene again, but this time it is during the end of the run where the embittered actors bumble through the exits and entrances during a performance where everything goes wrong.

The stage design is a two-story marvel that features the inside of a country estate. In the second act, the set is then spun around to show the backside of the same set piece. Then in the third act, it is returned to its front side. The Herculean task of the stagehands turning the set around during the intermissions drew applause from the onlookers.

NOISES OFF is a perfect mix of comedy, choreography, and construction. Let us hope the rest of SNS' season is as solid as this performance.

NOISES OFF runs through Sept. 19 with 7 p.m. performances on Sept. 9-11 and Sept. 16-18 and 2 p.m. matinees on Sept. 12 and 19. All theatergoers will be asked to wear a mask. Tickets range from $44 to $55 and can be purchased at

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