I would like to preface everything you are about to read with a few caveats.
I am not a “reviewer.” In fact, I do not know how to review any form of entertainment or art. I have not written a movie review, an album review or anything in between.
I am also not a theater-goer. I have been involved in a few theatrical productions in my life and have attended some, but it is not a field which I am particularly familiar with.
So, apologies in advance if this doesn’t read like your typical review.
But Taylor Theatre’s performance of Noises Off wasn’t your typical play.
Because of the above caveats, I knew very little about Noises Off. All I knew was that it was humorous and showing the weekend of April 28. I also had a few friends tell me that it was quite good.
So, I accepted the invite of some friends and decided to pay the seven dollars to take in a showing.
It ended up being some of the best seven dollars I have spent in my life.
To call Noises Off “funny” or a “comedy,” doesn’t really feel like it's doing it justice. After a peculiar start where I wasn’t entirely sure what I was witnessing, I began to grasp what was happening on stage, and when I did, laughs followed for the next three acts.
What the audience is witnessing on stage isn’t a simple farce comedy, but rather the production of a farce comedy, which in this universe is titled Nothing On.
A farce comedy is essentially a fast-paced physical comedy where what can go wrong, does go wrong.
The program for Taylor’s production reads, “Its (farce) physical action and hectic pacing produced a picture of man as the helpless victim of circumstances, trapped by objects as much as social conventions.”
Each situation within Noises Off seemed more and more ridiculous. Each circumstance became more and more uncanny.
A couple of minutes in and the voice of a director booms from the back of Mitchell Theatre. After some initial confusion, it becomes clear that the actors on stage aren’t performing for you, but rather are in the middle of a rehearsal for Nothing On.
Nothing On represents just this — a comedy driven by circumstance. One minute, Mrs. Clackett (Dotty) is bringing a plate of sardines in for the third time, while Roger (Gary) and Vicki (Brooke) attempt to remain clear of Phillip (Frederick) and Flavia (Belinda) returning to their home. There’s also a lot of doors and, of course, a burglar.
In itself, this represents an opportunity for laughter and expression from the audience. Part of me was actually looking for a clean run through of Act 1 of Nothing On. But instead, what we got was better. Each of these actors and actresses were essentially playing two parts — one behind-the-scenes of a production, the other the actual character within the production.
But each act got slowly more and more unsettled. What started as a last-second rehearsal for Nothing On with stress and errors rampant from the performers ended as a shell of Nothing On, a barely recognizable performance that saw the once semi-optimistic cast performing in a Municipal Theatre without their original director at a Municipal Theatre three months later on their tour.
The second act was perhaps the most hectic (but still coordinated) thing that I have ever witnessed. Approximately 100 different jokes were happening before my eyes as characters wound up on makeshift operating tables, fainted onto the floor and punched through windows. The entire time I thought, “surely something is going to go wrong,” but each moving part worked in unison. A testament to the cast and the production staff.
Unfortunately, by the time this is published, the last performance of Noises Off will have passed. If you had the privilege of seeing this, I am guessing your experience was the same as mine. If you didn’t, let this spur you to attend more Mitchell Theatre shows in the future.
So, while this may not have been the most articulate reaction to a play, there are few words to describe this performance other than it’s maybe the funniest thing I have ever seen.