Last night, I attended the official — dare I say, gala — opening of Gladstone Theater’s Noises Off. I am tempted to add “gala” to “opening” because the Gladstone knows how to cater a post-show reception! There were heaps of fresh oysters, shrimp, and other tasty treats.
The show itself was a treat too. I may be one of the few people in the theatre-world who has never seen (or, at least, who can’t recall seeing) a production of Noises Off, so I approached it with very fresh eyes. If you are unfamiliar with the show, check out the wikipedia entry.
It’s farce, pure and simple, this ensemble is strong across the board, and the show is well-executed. Ray “the O-G Man”, my date for the evening, has seen the production a couple of times. He said he rarely laughs out loud in shows and the Noises Off team had him guffawing pretty quickly.
The stand-outs in the cast, in alphabetical order, are: John Koensgen, Michelle LeBlanc, Steve Martin, Chris Ralph, and Colleen Sutton. The entire team is solid but these folks were the sharpest and most committed by my eyes and ears.
My only genuine complaint concerns the script, which is routinely said to be one of the funniest contemporary scripts out there. In ACT 2, we are privy to all kinds of backstage shenanigans which eventually spill on-stage and disrupt the imaginary performance. In ACT 3, this time from the perspective of the imaginary audience, we watch the performer’s absolutely butcher the play.
On my view, ACT 2 would be much funnier, if the shenanigans occur but don’t ever spill on-stage. There would, I think, be more comedic tension if we see the cast dancing near the brink, without falling off.
Moreover, I think the pay-off in ACT 3 would be much funnier because it would be the first time we witness things going horribly wrong on-stage. Surprise is an essential element of comedy and because of the on-stage failings witnessed in ACT 2, we are not at all surprised by the on-stage failings of ACT 3. This probably also serves to explain why the on-stage failings of ACT 3 becomes so outrageous. Because we’ve seen it happen already, there is nowhere left to go but completely over the top.
The Gladstone production negotiates this shortcoming in the script with verve and tenacity. They go for it full-out and keep driving the pace and energy right through until the end. The highlight of the show, by far, is ACT 2 where so much good fun is happening that it is impossible to keep track of it all. I can easily imagine people returning for another performance to see what other hilarity was missed the first time around.
I also recommend folks watch the set get moved around. It is a fascinating process to watch. It happens twice, of course, so go enjoy a drink during the longer first intermission. The much shorter second intermission will be well-spent watching this mini-ballet.
Does anyone have any thoughts about the play itself, this production, or other productions they have seen? Comments are always appreciated.