Last night, I went to see the Denver Center Theater Company's production of Noises Off. This play by Michael Frayn is one of my very favorites.
It's a three act comedy about a theater company putting on a British sex farce. The play follows the company through dress rehearsal and on to a disastrous tour around the UK. In each act, we see the same opening act of the fictitious play-within-the-play being performed, becoming progressively more of a train wreck. In addition to the great humor that comes from the repetition and subtle variation, the second act actually shows all the action from backstage; the set itself is rotated to allow we the audience to see the chaos going on literally behind the scenes at a performance.
I first became aware of the play through a film version that was made in the early 90s, with a pretty great cast including Carol Burnett, Michael Caine, John Ritter, Christopher Reeve, and more. You find opinions on that film mixed if you look for reviews, but I thought it was great (even if it did lose a lot of the "meta" level of the humor in the transition from stage to film, and get a stupid Hollywood ending tacked on).
I loved it so much that I pushed for my high school to perform it, and we did so shortly before I graduated. We quite honestly bit off a little more than we could chew on that one, though I think we did a decent enough job. (I think. Actually, I have a VHS tape of one of our performances hiding in a box somewhere. I'd probably better not dare to dig that out and shatter the happy illusion of my memory.)
Anyway, point being, I'm in love with this play, and when I heard someone was doing it here in Denver, I had to go... even suspecting that no production could likely live up to my grand opinions of the play.
And yet, it did!
Noises Off is just a funny, funny play. And if you've ever had anything to do with the theater, it becomes almost supernaturally funny. I found that my familiarity with the piece didn't detract from that one bit.
There were maybe one or two performers in this cast I didn't quite love, but that was easily eclipsed by the other performers who were outstanding. Particularly great was the woman playing the part of Brooke, an airhead blonde actress who stalwartly sticks to the script even as the chaos rages around her. Put simply, I never realized how tremendously funny her part in the show could be until I saw this woman performing it.
Similarly, I think I never realized quite how funny the third and final act of the play could be. Act Two is really the showiest of the play, with a staggering to behold choreography of "backstage" chaos meshing with a "performance" of the fake play. Act Three, which returns to a normal view of another performance as it falls apart, always seemed a bit of a letdown to me after that. But not when I saw it last night. The cast managed to find a whole lot of humor, mining the material more deeply than I'd imagined possible.
In short, this play does not disappoint. If you're in or around Denver and can catch this production before it closes at the end of the month, I highly recommend it. Hell, let me know you're going and I'll go with you and see it again. If Denver's out of your radius, then keep an eye out for a theater company performing Noises Off somewhere near you.
Don't miss this play if you have the chance.