By William Wolf

NOISES OFF  Send This Review to a Friend

Farce requires exceptional expertise, which is certainly there in full steam in the wonderfully-cast revival of “Noises Off.” The show is a sure-fire prescription for all who are seeking the kind of belly laughs to be heard at Roundabout Theater Company’s production under the blissful direction of Jeremy Herrin.

I first saw the play staged in London, and then productions in New York, and I can say that this one is at the top of its game. Michael Frayn’s play is a very clever farce spoofing run-down theater companies, in this case British. The major news this time is the utterly hilarious performance by the always-superb Andrea Martin as a befuddled actress playing the increasingly befuddled housekeeper in the hapless company’s production of a farce called “Nothing On.”

You get two programs on entering the theater, the Playbill giving details about the show, and another program for the “Nothing On” farce within the farce, detailing which actors are playing which parts in the uproarious mess that we see.

“Noises Off” is cleverly written, with both a front view of what the “Nothing On” audience will see and the backstage view of the actors as they rush on and off to perform, intermittently engaging in their relationships that underscore the incompetence and messy lives of virtually everyone.

You have to be there. It is a tall order to attempt to describe the onslaught of missteps that befall the players. Some of it is delightfully physical slapstick, some the humor that comes from line and entrance screw-ups. Laughs are also mined from the odd character assortment. There are seven doors that can be slammed, one open door and a window for breaching, and rest assured, the set designed by Derek McLane gets a thorough workout.

The ensemble is absolutely terrific, including Campbell Scott, Tracee Chimo, Daniel Davis, David Furr, Kate Jennings Grant, Megan Hilty, Rob Mclure and Jeremy Shamos. All are called upon to excel as farceurs and all do.

Of course, Andrea Martin is a show-stealer, with a range of body language, expressions and physical comedy that can induce helpless laughter. And show-stealing from this talented bunch is a special achievement.

I also particularly enjoyed Ms. Hilty, playing a busty blonde lacking intelligence both as the no-talent actress she depicts in “real Life” and in “Nothing On.” Hilty generates laugh after laugh with her chirpy voice and clumsy movements, and sometimes just by standing there.

Naturally, there are some theatergoers who don’t appreciate farce and will sit stone-faced while all around them people are consistently laughing aloud. If this top-notch production of “Noises Off” doesn’t ignite them, what will? At the American Airlines Theatre, 227 West 42nd Street. Phone: 212-719-1300. Reviewed January 21, 2016.


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