The show opens in the living room of the Brent’s (played by Ross Hellwig and Jessica John) home, which we soon find out is listed on the market for sale. While the Brents have traveled out of the country to Spain to avoid the tax collector, their home is being tended to by the housekeeper, Mrs. Clackett (played by Deborah Gilmour Smyth). In this first scene, she engages the audience in immediate laughter as she is on set with a plate of sardines, a telephone, and plight of minimal memory. As she is being directed and reminded of her lines over and over again, in the front door walks a real estate agent (played by Brian Mackey) who thinks the home is empty and is planning to have his way with his “client,” a young, single woman (played by Charlene Wilkenson), only to realize Mrs. Clackett is in fact home.
The show carries on with more and more people arriving at the home and going into rooms to engage in their “affairs” with one another while in most cases just missing each other. In this door, behind this sheet, in that door. Upstairs, downstairs. In through the window, well the burglar anyway. The show is a farce-filled with out-of-control egos, memory loss, and entangled affairs turning the performance into nonstop innuendo humor. Described as “a play-within-a-play capturing a touring theater troupe’s production of Nothing On in three stages: dress rehearsal, the opening performance and a performance towards the end of a debilitating run.” The show is a backstage look at theater behind the scenes where there are forgotten or flubbed lines, missed cues during dress rehearsal and increasing tension among the cast members in the final performance. This is slapstick British comedy at its finest.
As I was leaving the theatre I overheard one audience member telling her friend that the performance left her feeling exhausted. My friend that saw the performance with me, Tendayi Gentile, remarked, “I have a lot of questions” in reference to who got who pregnant as the stage manager announced her pregnancy near the end of the show. At over two hours long, I also was completely exhausted from watching the nonstop cast movement in and out of doors, up and down stairs and running circles around one another, doors slamming and the overall choreography of chaos.
The New York Times calls it “SPECTACULARLY FUNNY!”
Daily News says it’s “BUMPER CAR BRILLIANCE!”
and the New York Post says it’s “THE FUNNIEST FARCE EVER WRITTEN!”
by Michael Frayn
directed by Robert Smyth
Noises Off plays at Lamb’s Players Theatre through May 20.