Lilian Moore, Jason Kimble and Carolyn Zaput in Noises Off.
I first saw playwright Michael Frayn’s Noises Off nearly 30 years ago in London, and can still recall laughing until the tears came to my eyes. I’ve seen this onstage-backstage farce a number of times since then, in productions with varying degrees of success, but I’ve never yet seen it without getting at least some of the laughs that first viewing earned.
The Players’ current production of the show-within-a-show comedy chaos is no exception. Not everyone is ideally cast here, but several of the players really are, and under the carefully choreographed direction of Kelly Woodland, they’re able to pull off the complicated timing required, especially in the deservedly famed behind-the-scenes Act II, where pantomime plays a crucial part.
For those who’ve never seen it, Noises Off looks fondly but knowingly at a not exactly topnotch show which is itself called Nothing On, being performed in England’s “provinces” for audiences frequently composed mainly of OAPs (Old Age Pensioners). It’s the usual bit of nonsense about couples contriving some sexual shenanigans in a country house filled with doors and a stairway that sees lots of action, but the real fun is watching the cast and crew as they struggle to get through the show’s run without killing each other. You just know that any piece with an opening act offering lots of tossed endearments like “love,” “precious” and “darling” is going to end up with far more dangerous objects being tossed.
Here’s the character roundup: game but forgetful comedienne Dotty (Carolyn Zaput, definitely exhibiting the right spirit), having a fling with younger costar Garry (Michael Morris), a familiarly amiable, clueless sort; dim bulb starlet Brooke (Danae DeShazer), who’s always losing her contact lenses; stage manager Poppy (Jamie Stewart-Butrum) who’s always losing her headset, as well as her heart to manipulative director Lloyd (Walter Price, convincing as the voice of authority here); even younger and more hapless jack-of-all-trades Tim (Gianni Damaia); sensible, solicitous Belinda (Lilian Moore), who always knows what’s going on before anyone else does; Frederick (Jason Kimble), inarticulate and prone to nosebleeds; and lastly veteran actor and sot Selsdon (Dan Higgs, a delight to watch), who has to be constantly steered away from the bottle.
There’s almost no farcical cliché Frayn leaves unexplored, from dropped pants to malfunctioning doorknobs to mistakenly switched identical bags and boxes, with his own added touch of appearing and disappearing multiple plates of sardines. And every actor gets at least several good moments, although occasionally on opening night a line or two was trampled. Particularly dexterous are Zaput, Price and Higgs, each of whom fits well within the parameters of their characters, physically and emotionally.
Needless to say, with all the frantic running about, this is a high-energy show, and one that should engage audience members looking for a good time. Noises Off continues through April 1; call 365-2494 or go to theplayers.org.