The Meadow Brook delights with ‘Noises Off’
ROCHESTER HILLS, MI–Noises Off is a fan-favorite play that takes the art of farce to splendid heights. The current production at The Meadow Brook Theatre is wonderfully cast, and the players take the material and run with it…in and out of seven doors on the stage.
Michael Frayn’s successful masterpiece play, which has been produced on and off Broadway and in regional theatres for decades, as well as being turned into a film, has enthralled audiences for years.
From the moment the curtains rise, Noises Off sets off on a wild, hilarious journey that delves into the chaos and madness behind the scenes of a struggling theater production. Yes, it is a play within a play, and we are th audience for tech week for the cast that has only had two weeks to prepare. Indeed, what we are witnessing is the final dress rehearsal for a play called “Nothing On,” and the cast seems to think it is just the beginning of tech week.
The play ingeniously offers a glimpse into both the onstage performance and the backstage mayhem, showcasing the often-forgotten lives and dynamics of the actors when the audience’s eyes are not upon them. There are the doors, which are almost constantly in operation with entrances and exits, doors that don’t work properly, real-life jealousy that is brought into rehearsal, pants that cant be kept up, forgotten lines, a plate of sardines that seems to have a life of its own. And so much more as the wheels come off this play within the play, all to the delight of the audience. Before there was “The Play That Goes Wrong,” there was “Noises Off.”
The ensemble cast selected by director Travis Walters, delivers lines and the physical comedy with impeccable timing: Stephen Blackwell as rakish Garry Lejeune; Jennifer Byrne as hoity-toity Belinda Blair; Dani Cochrane as beleaguered stage manager Poppy Norton-Taylor; Cory Cunningham as grip/set builder Tim Allgood; Anthony Guest as frequently pantless Fredeick Fellowes; Stephanie Nichols as the well-named Dotty Otley who has a world of trouble with that plate of sardines; Phil Powers as the addled Selsdon Mowbray; Cheryl Turski as ditzy Brooke Ashton; and Ron Williams as exasperated director Lloyd Dallas.
One of the play’s most pleasing aspects is the intricacy of its staging. The revolving set design allows the audience to witness the seamless transitions between the three acts, each depicting a different performance of the same play. Once again, Kristen Gibbin’s set is a wonder. The attention to detail in the set changes and the precise choreography of the actors as they navigate the chaotic backstage world is comedic gold. It’s like watching synchronized comedy dance. The technical prowess behind it all is a testament to the skill and dedication of the Meadow Brook production team.
Noises Off not only delivers a lot of laughs, but also cleverly explores the fragility of human relationships and the absurdity of the theater world. As the play progresses, the line between the onstage and offstage shenanigans blurs, leading to hilarious misunderstandings, doors slamming, and physical mishaps that has the audience erupting with laughter.
Noises Off has timeless humor, terrific performances by seasoned comedic actors, and inventive staging that will leave you smiling throughout. Noises Off is a testament to the power of live performance and a reminder of the magic that can unfold on stage…even when everything within the play inside the play is going pear-shaped.