Review: NOISES OFF Snags Slapstick Laughs at SKYLIGHT MUSIC THEATRE

Milwaukee Music Theatre Stages First-Ever Play in 63 Years

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They say laughter is the best medicine, and Skylight Music Theatre is serving up your remedy with the uproarious romp Noises Off. Written by English playwright Michael Frayn, Noises Off first debuted in 1982. It is indeed a play, marking Skylight's first ever non-musical in its 63-year history.

With a script this hilarious and chock full of surprises, it's easy to see why Artist Director Michael Unger chose to stage Noises Off. He even found a music loophole. The play features two 15-minute intermissions, and Skylight treats its audience to a swingin' jazz ensemble, The Sardines, during each break. Newcomer to Skylight, singer Leah Gawel also lends vocal flair and sparkles as she works the spotlight.

Noises Off is a farce within a farce and a play within a play. Act One shows a cast of performers rehearsing for the opening night of their play Nothing On. We see one full act of Nothing On where nobody can remember their lines, their cues, or when to take or leave the sardines.

Act Two takes us backstage during the play's run, where we see the same Act One one-act from a behind-the-scenes perspective. There are spurned lovers, a stage crew at their wit's end, and total mayhem ensues. Shout-out to all who had a hand in crafting this amazing rotating set that can take us from in front to behind the curtain in no-time.

In Act Three, we once again see Nothing On from the audience perspective, watching this one-act -- with its lines and actions we've come to anticipate -- dissolve into even further chaos.

Skylight has assembled a mix of familiar faces and talent new to the Cabot Theatre. Milwaukee favorite Matt Daniels plays Lloyd Dallas, the exasperated Nothing On director, fluctuating from pensive serenity to dramatic outbursts and back. Becky Cofta is a hoot as the bemused blond with a vacant expression, self-fixation, and relentless devotion to her character's on-stage blocking. For a chuckle, be sure to watch her antics during in-between moments.

Also back at Skylight is Jake Horstmeier, who proves an ace at trousers-around-the-ankles humor and going limp as a noodle at the sign of his own bloody nose. Horstmeier recently appeared at Skylight in Mamma Mia! alongside recent Marquette graduate Emma Knott, who plays the ever-frazzled Poppy in Noises Off. The delightful Joel Kopischke also returns to Skylight as the hysterical drunkard-burglar Selsdon, a man who can recall neither line, cue, nor logic. And lastly, after a five-year hiatus from the stage, Jenna K. Vik is thrilled to be back in Noises Off as the effervescent Belnida Blair.

Making her Skylight debut as Dotty/Mrs. Clackett is Linda Mugleston, whose credits include an array of classics on Broadway. Her dry wit and effortless comedic chops elevate the action around her. Joining her for the first time at Skylight are Max Christian Pink and Gabriel Manuel Burdette. Pink is hilarious as a guy who says a whole lot of nothing, then later takes zany physical comedy to the next level. In Act Three, he gives us a tumble down the stairs deserving of its instant applause -- such an impressive stunt!

Loads of the laughs in Noises Off stem from the slapstick insanity of physical comedy, particularly in Act Two. It's a wildly remarkable feat full of athletic energy and supreme confidence in physically being at the right place at the right time, and this cast completely pulls it off to big-time laughter.

So, for its first play ever, Skylight has staged a hysterical romp that is cute, charming, and full of good energy and classic comedic antics. It's a fun look behind the scenes for theater lovers, and no doubt hilariously relatable to theater professionals. As long as Skylight promises to bring equal joy in future productions, I imagine audiences would embrace more non-musical endeavors from Milwaukee's own Music Theatre. Noises Off proves a worthy foray into giving Skylight regulars something different, but no less enjoyable.

Catch Noises Off at Skylight Music Theatre through April 2nd.

Photo Credit: Mark Frohna


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From This Author - Kelsey Lawler

  Kelsey Lawler is a copywriter by day and zealot for local theater by night. She earned her BA in Writing Intensive English from Marquette University in 2009, and has been working as an editor, ... (read more about this author)


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