EXCERPTS FROM THE REVIEW
Below are excerpts from the May 22, 2017 Baltimore Sun review of Noises Off.
EVERYMAN CAST ROMPS THROUGH 'NOISES OFF'
And you thought the secret of the universe was deep. Nope. It all boils down to just doors and sardines.
This piece of wisdom gets dispatched early on in “Noises Off,” the intricately stitched comedy from 1982 now at Everyman Theatre in a diverting revival. Delivered in the mellifluous baritonal voice of Carl Schurr, as a weary director trying to get one last rehearsal out of a not-quite-top-notch troupe, the advice becomes all the more weighty — and amusing.
“That’s what it’s all about,” he says. “Doors and sardines. Getting on, getting off. Getting the sardines on, getting the sardines off. That’s farce. That’s the theater. That’s life.”
Over the space of three acts, playwright Michael Frayn gives this droll notion the ultimate workout, using the trusty play-within-a-play structure to generate a tour-de-farce.
The focus is on a British company preparing and performing a bedroom comedy called “Nothing On” during a tour of decidedly provincial places. All the while, the actors become increasingly embroiled in their own assorted affairs, jealousies and recriminations.
"Deborah Hazlett shines... Danny Gavigan does terrific work..."
We never do get to see how “Nothing On” turns out — each act of “Noises Off” finds the players coping solely with Act 1. (For an extra dose of wit, don’t overlook the fake playbill for “Nothing On” tucked inside the Everyman program.)
Frayn’s most inspired touch is devoting all of Act 2 to the view from backstage as “Nothing On” unfolds, with actors darting onto the boards then back behind the scenery to spar with each other — wordlessly, for the most part, since a performance is going on a few feet away.
Deborah Hazlett shines as Dotty Otley, the veteran minor-league actress who has the role of the sardine-minded maid in “Nothing On,” and also helps bankroll the tour. Hazlett brings out the character’s frustrations as deftly as the gradual rebelliousness when Dotty’s affair with the much younger actor Garry Lejeune unravels.
Danny Gavigan does terrific work as Garry, especially when called on to carry out more and more stage business as the play proceeds. Gavigan also gets top marks for handling British accents, nicely delineating the lower-class (and frequently tongue-tied) actor from the more up-market role of the rakish Roger played by Garry in “Nothing On.”
There are colorful contributions from Beth Hylton, as the gossipy Belinda Blair; Bruce Randolph Nelson as Frederick Fellowes, an actor ever in need of the “motivation” for any bit of stage business, however insignificant; and Wil Love as the well-seasoned, sobriety-averse, hearing-challenged Selsdon Mowbray.
In addition to Schurr’s sturdy work as the director Lloyd Dallas, Eric Berryman does a supple turn as stage manager Tim Allgood. And Megan Anderson, looking a little like Gilda Radner’s endearing Lisa Loopner character on “Saturday Night Live,” is spot-on as the repressed assistant stage manager Poppy Norton-Taylor.
Making an impressive Everyman debut, Emily Kester rounds out the production as young, vacant, one-pose-suits-all actress Brooke Ashton; the backstage scene of Brooke blithely going through yoga and vocal exercises as bedlam breaks out all around her is a production highlight.
Spot-on sets (Daniel Ettinger) and costumes (Eric Abele) place the action in the era of bad fashion tastes, the 1970s. Sound designer Phillip Owen adds perfect vintage music to set the mood for this frenetic homage to farce — and sardines.