Theatre Arlington’s Noises Off will leave you in stitches
By Punch Shaw
Special to the Star-Telegram
ARLINGTON – The emergency rooms of Arlington hospitals should add staff and stand by in the wake of the opening of the frenetic farce Noises Off at Theatre Arlington on Friday night.
They are likely to be inundated with patients complaining of sore ribs and maybe even split guts from laughing uproariously for more than two hours without time to even catch their breaths. And after a few more performances, the cast of this extremely physical comedy may need an entire wing of a medical facility all its own.
But a little collateral damage is acceptable in the theater when the show is this funny. Certainly, the lion’s share of the credit for that always has to go to British playwright Michael Frayn, who created this madness about a hopelessly dysfunctional theater troupe’s attempts to present a deeply flawed comic romp called Nothing On. This show is the quintessential British sex farce, and most productions of it keep the laughs coming.
Few presentations, however, realize the full potential of this hysterical material as well as this one. Director Andy Baldwin puts the pedal to the metal as soon as the curtain goes up, and he never lets off. He can do so because he has such a wonderful ensemble of players. They are every bit the unit they need to be for this brilliantly structured bit of nonsense.
It is almost unfair to single out any performer, but it would also be a travesty not to acknowledge the bitingly humorous performance by Ben Phillips as Lloyd, the director of the show’s play-within-a-play. His comic timing is even sharper than his character’s withering wit.
And it would a major oversight not to call your call your attention to the nuanced performance by Shane Beeson as Garry. His perfectly measured portrayal can easily get lost in the chaos of this show’s action, but his work in the third act is as strong as Phillips’ efforts in the first act.
The second act belongs to the cast as a whole. During that section, we move behind the scenes of Nothing On thanks to a fabulous set by Jack Hardway that spins on a turntable to change the audience’s perspective. All sorts of high jinks are played out as the actors silently try to kill one another without interrupting the show out front. Krista Scott, Brad Stephens, Eric Dobbins, Robin Daniel and Michael James turn in great performances in this act just as they do in the other two.
The only flaw in the show, though, is a major one. Sherry Hopkins as Belinda and Mikaela Krantz as Brooke both do excellent jobs with their lines. Hopkins is especially good with the acting-within-acting she has to do, and Krantz scores often with visual humor. But, unfortunately, they have been cast in each other’s roles. It is a tragic blunder in an otherwise perfectly plotted undertaking.
But there is so much else going on in this relentless comedy that it can survive even that obvious misstep. Many of its noises may be off (stage), but this production’s comedic chops are spot on.