“Noises Off” Presented by Stagecrafters at Baldwin Theater, Royal Oak MI
Reviewed by Suzanne Angeo (member, American Theatre Critics Association; Member Emeritus, San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle) and Greg Angeo (Member Emeritus, San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle)
Photos courtesy of Stagecrafters
Funny Business at the Baldwin
If your idea of a good time is watching gentlemen cavort onstage with their trousers around their ankles, ladies clad only in their (very pretty) underwear and seeing eight different doors slam at regular intervals, then “Noises Off” is for you.
You may have guessed that this show is intended to be a farce, but it is more than that. In its West End and Broadway beginnings in the early 1980s, it was a broadly-textured sophisticated comic spectacle that was acclaimed by critics and audiences alike. On the Baldwin main stage, it’s a pleasant-enough comedy that, as one audience member put it, “has its moments”.
“Noises Off”, by English playwright Michael Frayn, uses the popular play-within-a-play theme. It tells the story of a less-than-competent troupe of actors who are struggling through the final dress rehearsal of a British sex farce called “Nothing On”. Opening night descends upon them in less than 24 hours’ time and it’s not going well. Lines are dropped, errant plates of sardines (yes, sardines) go AWOL and tempers flare between director and cast. Secret romances and wardrobe malfunctions abound.
There is a cast of nine, with six playing the actors in “Nothing On”. The others play the director (Jason Dilly), stage manager (Casey Coulter), and assistant stage manager (Brooklyn Nicole). Stagecrafters veteran Dilly delivers an intense and memorable performance as the wise-cracking, world-weary director Lloyd Dallas, who, as it turns out, has quite the active love life. Making a show-stopping entrance is Jeff Weiner as the eccentric senior actor Selsdon Mowbray, who also happens to be playing the Burglar in “Nothing On”. The rest of the cast is enjoyable in their dual roles, including Julie Fuller, Scott Welborn, Tara Makar, Kenyada Davis and Erica Gunaca.
The flexible set by Obie Burch is a marvel of moving parts. With some simple stagecraft maneuvering, It transforms from the audience-facing set of “Nothing On” to the backstage view of the same set, so we can observe the shenanigans from behind the scenes.
A key source of laughs is, or should be, watching the “Nothing On” actors swing wildly back and forth between exaggerated histrionics during their rehearsal of the farce, and a more typical comic style when they are dealing with “real life” as they move in and out of character. This much-needed contrast seems to be missing much of the time, although most of the cast has a good grasp of basic comedy and carries it off well.
Director Vince DeRita and his assistant Tony Battle have made this show a simple comedy of errors and nonsensical silly bits, which is a lot of fun as it is. But it could have been more.
Stagecrafters is proud to partner with Gilda’s Club of Metro Detroit for the production of Noises Off. Gilda’s Club provides an environment of free support for men, women, teens and children living with cancer as well as their families and friends. Stagecrafters is collecting donations for Gilda’s Club throughout the run of Noises Off.
When: Through November 24, 2019
Where: Baldwin Theatre, Main Stage
415 S. Lafayette
Royal Oak, MI 48067