Theater review: ‘Noises Off’ is on … mostly
Vail CO, Colorado
Probably the best farce written in the past half-century, Michael Frayn’s “Noises Off” is the kind of show that has audiences exhausted by the time the curtain falls.
And don’t even think about the actors, who spend three acts in some of the most frenetic on-stage athletics imaginable ” all done with the kind of precision normally reserved for synchronized swimming.
Currently showing at the Denver Center Theatre Company, “Noises Off” was directed by the theater’s artistic director, Kent Thompson, who’s sure hand and extraordinary blocking choreography make for an almost airtight rendering of this modern classic.
And that, oddly enough, turns out to be a problem in this production, particularly in the second act. So capable is the cast that they were able to maintain a mind-boggling array of individual actions in Act II – so much so that audience members struggle to keep up with it all. Yes, Kent, it is possible to be too good.
“Noises Off” has the thinnest of plots, revolving around the fact that theater casts with a long run on their hands can end up being hopelessly intertwined ” romantically and otherwise. In Act I, we see the disastrous dress rehearsal and get an idea of who’s who. In Act II, the set is flipped to reveal the backstage, and we see the silent action and in-fighting between the cast as they perform a matinee for a house full of pensioners (the play is set in England). In Act III, the set is flipped again and we see the final performance ” a muddled mess that finds the cast unable to keep the facade intact for the audience any longer.
There are a number of exceptional performances in the DCTC production, notably Kate MacCluggage as the dimwitted blonde who spends much of the performance in her lingerie; her would-be lover Roger (David Ivers) who can never quite complete a sentence; the director (Sam Gregory) whose hopes of mounting a good show are continually dashed; and Brent Harris as the harried homeowner with the tax collectors on his tail. There’s also a couple of nice turns by a half-dozen sardines glued to a plate.
What’s missing is a stronger Dotty, whose relationship with Ivers’ character should be more central and serving as central glue for the madness. In his efforts to turn up the volume on the physical aspects of “Noises Off,” Thompson left some of the character development in the dust. The result is still enjoyable, but comedies ” even farces ” must have some heart at their center for the audience to hang onto.
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