By Michael Frayn
Directed by Jay Hopkins
A Jester Theatre Company production
Winter Garden Theatre, Winter Garden
It’s best to leave serious comedy to the professionals and Noises Off is a pretty serious comedy. I’ve seen productions that have ranged from sublime to Turkish prison painful, and I’m so happy to report this is the funniest on record. Under the well timed direction of Jay Hopkins, this “Play in a Play” play hits every gag, pulls laughs out of every pratfall, and gets down into the tricky work of making occasional shrugs, stares and double takes yield an additional rich harvest of laughs. This show is hitting on all eight cylinders.
The inner play is a doddering door slammer of a farce funded Doty Otlye (Marty Stonerock) It’s her last attempt to “put something by” before old age kills her career, and the show is a shambles – the cast is barely off book, the opening night party is less than 24 hours away, and lust, alcoholism and contact lenses provide backstage drama much more interesting than what’s in front of the curtain. Director Lloyd Dallas (Hopkins) speaks with the voice of God from the balcony and helps Freddy Fellows (Keith Smith) find motivation in his cardboard box. Dotty can’t keep track of the sardines, and the multiple on stage romances are all shifted one over from where the cast is actually bedding down. The old school actor Sheldon Mowbray (Don Fowler) is more interested in his next drink than hitting his mark. In other words, it’s like Fringe but with better sets.
It’s hard to point a finger and not aim it at someone with a brilliant performance. Jason Horn plays Garry Lejune, focusing all his nearly grown-up energy at falling down stairs and tossing an axe at his romantic competitor. Fowler looks like a street person while emoting with the profundity and projection of a man whose career predates electronic amplification. The quiet guy here is notional technical director and all-around stand-in Tim Allgood (Tyler Cravens) He’s the sleep deprived man who makes all the wrong announcements and keeps the cast from killing each other. Marty Stonerock is pleasantly batty and misses the couch when she plops down, Poppy Norton-Taylor (Becky Eck) is mostly on the verge of well deserved tears, and Lloyd Dallas might be the voice of authority, but he much better as the two timing love interest.
Comedy is timing, timing and more timing, and here it all falls in place. There’s a little innuendo and a little language, but this is funny, funny, and more funny. Go see it with someone who can take a joke.
For a complete listing of events at The Garden Theatre in Winter garden, please visit http://gardentheatre.org