Confusion, control (or lack thereof), and zaniness are all good places to start for a comedy. When events inevitably go over the top, it is best not to hold the reins too tight and just let the crazy take over. The best kind of fun can come out of the mess.
“Noises Off” is a very funny, slapstick comedy of missed cues, doors, flying props, and sardines. It tells the story of a hapless group of actors, and their frustrated director, Lloyd (a very good David Julian Hirsh), trying to put on a farcical play. However, the chaos of the rehearsals spills out, figuratively and literally, into the final production. “Noises Off” is a farce within a farce as the personal drama of the characters become more hysterical than the show they are desperately trying to get right.
This type of comedy is a tricky dance as it hinges on a brisk pace and flawless execution. The first act starts out a bit slow and gradually picks up as the confused cast attempt to get through the rehearsal process. However, the second act shines with great timing as the characters perform the show in front of an audience while simultaneously engaging in total pandemonium backstage. Later, in the third act, the wheels come off completely and the little show becomes a whole new farce.
The cast is wonderful. Marcel Jeannin (Freddy), Andrew Shaver (Garry), and Martha Burns (Dotty) are marvelous as the leads in a love triangle that is filled with wild jealousy, tears, and bandages. Chala Hunter (Belinda) is solid as the only one who seems to know what is going on, not to mention everyone’s cue. Amanda Lisman is a delight and a blast as Brooke, the performer who can play camp perfectly while being totally discombobulated. Daniel Lillford is marvelous as the drunken and hearing impaired Selsdon who couldn’t hit his entrance cue even if you pointed him in that direction. Kaitlyn Riordan (Poppy) and Michael Musi (Tim) are very funny as the put upon backstage crew desperately trying to hold the whole thing (and themselves) together.
The set is perfectly suited for the multi-purpose action of all of the stories running around. The props are characters within themselves, especially the slamming doors and those shiny sardines (I won’t spoil it for you!). The costumes are just right.
Chaos can be especially funny when everyone tries to stay in control in spite of the ridiculous situations. However, soldiering on through overwhelming odds and frayed nerves brings power to the craziness. Sometimes, all one can do is let go and let the chips, or sardines, fall where they may.
Photo credit Andrée Lanthier
“Noises Off”: A Segal Centre Production. Playwright: Michael Frayn. Directed by Jacob Tierney. Show continues until February 19, at Segal Centre, 5170 Chemin de la Côte-Ste-Catherine, Montreal. Tickets $65 to $32. Call the box office 514-739-7944 or go to www.segalcentre.org