Peggy Sue Dunigan

Noises Off! at the Sunset Playhouse is great summer fluff

By - Jun 10th, 2009 04:09 pm
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Noises Off!A bit of British humor enlivens the stage at the Sunset Playhouse with the current production of Noises Off!. This award-winning play from 1983 was revived in 2001, and continues to challenge theater companies. Playwright Michael J. Frayn created a tightly wound laugh out loud farce that builds in tension throughout the three acts. Flapping doors, lost contact lenses, an axe and a disappearing plate of sardines occasionally steal a scene.

Sunset Director Mark Salentine appropriately sets up Frayn’s first act slowly for this ‘play within a play’ where a small cast of mismatched and socially troubled actors rehearse for a current tour of a production called “Noises On”. It develops a comedic humor and timing to both fictional production and the story at hand, in which the audience is allowed to understand the premise and intent of both as a dress rehearsal goes awry already.

In Act Two, the cast is midway through their fictional tour. We get to see now the workings behind the set, with a lovely recreation of backstage scaffolding created by Set Designer J. Michael Desper. At this point, the cast’s personal lives are spinning out of control along with the fictional production. This often appears as veiled silence or a back door look, with the audience’s eyes glued to the stage and guffaws grow audible.

After an exciting turn of scenery (be sure to watch for it), Act Three reveals the last legs of the tour. Everything seems undone with the loose ends littering the stage. There’s no one left standing while a ubiquitous plate of sardines literally lies all over the production.

This exuberant and fast paced farce requires the ablest of actor bodies for as it is intense physical comedy, along with synchronized timing to complete in rapid succession while appearing effortless. Each member of the cast successfully provides this, including the lanky Matthew J. Patton (Garry Lejeune), who falls down a flight of stairs and integrates a most appealing hand dialogue with coordinating dialect into his role. Ruth Arnell (Brooke Ashton) pertly gives her character, both the ‘on’ and ‘off’ stage persona, a delightful pout. The returning Sarah Laak Hughes (Belinda Blair) remains a charming addition while Nathan Berish (Lloyd Dallas) directs this entire on stage house of fun with proper British arrogance. The production indeed takes an entire team effort to perform this complicated play, and does so with a confidence that deserves applause.

With only a touch being over the top near the final minutes, Noises Off! delivers a courageous evening of comedy that also subtly showcases the two sides to every person, situation, and event. It hints that what goes unseen often becomes more critical than what’s in clear view. This duality gives the play a resonance beyond the farcical mindset, along with an appreciation for what actors have to prepare for and deliver each time they step on a stage. At any one moment, what can go wrong often does. However, the “show must go on,” on set and in everyday life.

Sunset Playhouse continues Noises Off! at the Furlan Auditorium in Elm Grove now through June 20. It finishes the summer season with the musical Fame opening July 17, and celebrates its 50th Anniversary season this fall under the theme of  “Serious Fun”. For information call 262.782.4430 or visit . For general ticketing information on a variety of shows happening in Milwaukee and the surrounding areas visit Footlights magazine.

Categories: Arts & Culture

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