Nancy Sasso Janis
‘Noises Off’ is a play within a play written by Michael Frayn that is being presented by the Connecticut Theatre Company at the Repertory Theatre in New Britain. The play is directed by the wonderful Chris Kulmann, who dubs this piece, as many have, the funniest show ever written. “Comedy is an art,” he writes. “It is created and developed by characters turned up to 110% and a solid story line. Now when you add slapstick, sex and a truckload of props, it gets taken to a whole new level of hilarity.” I know Mr. Kulmann to be one of the strongest improvisational actors around and his mark is all over this hysterical romp.
The story involves an ambitious director (played to the hilt by none other than Chuck Stango) and his troupe of mediocre actors that are trying to put together a silly sex comedy called ‘Nothing On.’ The embedded show is a single set farce in which the lovers frolic, multiple doors slam, outer clothes are tossed away and lots of hi-jinks follow. The three acts of the comedy show us a dress rehearsal, backstage at a matinee performance and finally on stage during a ruined performance of the doomed production at the end of it’s run. A large chunk of the second act is done silently backstage as the performance can be seen through a window in the set and anyone who has ever waited behind the scenes for an entrance will love it.
Adding much to the production is an impressively decorated set of the living room of an English country home that literally revolves to reveal the backstage area of the stage, that from my limited experience, is extremely accurate. Technical director Michael J. Bane gets the credit for this massive undertaking, as well as taking care of the sound and lighting design. Kudos to Mr. Bane on this masterpiece and to Mr. Kulmann on that truckload of props.
The cast of strongly drawn characters are played by a very talented group of actors that had to work very hard to keep up with the non stop action. I marveled at how they managed to remember their lines, their cues, and their props always moving at breakneck speed. They did get a break during the two intermissions but is was probably seemed much shorter to them than to the audience.
Viktoria Noel Chiappa, a Elon University sophomore and a figure skater, played the assistant stage manager Poppy and spent the first act entering on her toes and was quite adorable. Barbara Gallow made her CT Theatre debut in the role of older actress Dotty Otley who plays the housekeeper of the summer home. Albert Geetter played an older actor named Selsdon who drinks and plays a burglar in the play.
Ryan Glick made his debut on the Repertory stage to play Tim Allgood, the overworked stage manager who also understudies the male leads. Jean-Marie McGrath of Naugatuck played the part of Brooke, a young inexperienced actress from London who, when she isn’t losing her contact lenses, pays no attention to anyone and simply plows on through her lines. Daniel Morrow. a student at NVCC, made his debut in a community theatre production as Garry LeJeune. He is a stuttering actor who is part of one of the love triangles.
Heather Sauer, a “mild mannered high school math teacher by day” who thanks her students in her bio, played the cheerful and reliable actress Belinda Blair. David Sirois, in his CT acting debut, played Frederick Fellowes, an actor lacking in confidence and smarts. And Mr. Stango? He was perfectly cast as the director of this doomed farce and kept us laughing from the first time the spotlights came on him seated in the front row of the audience to his attempts to rescue the mixed up performance in the third act. I had to force myself to stop wishing he had more time onstage.
The audience at the Sunday matinee enjoyed the production as much as I did and we never stopped laughing. Don’t miss that there are two programs in the book handed to you by the usher, one for the CT Theatre Company production and a cheeky one for the embedded play ‘Nothing On.’ Be forewarned that there is a 15 minute intermission, and a ten-minute break before the final act.
‘Noises Off’ continues next weekend Friday, July 24th, 2015 at 7:00 PM, Saturday, July 25th, 2015 at 7:00 PM and Sunday, July 26th, 2015 – 2:00 PM. Tickets are available.