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Milwaukee Rep cast delights in farcical 'Noises Off'

By JULIE McHALE - TimeOut Theater Critic

December 5, 2012

 
MILWAUKEE - A farce is a farce - lots of doors and often staircases, lots of physical comedy, lots of impossible situations and wacky characters.   

“Noises Off,” written in 1982 by the British playwright Michael J. Frayn, is considered by some to be the ultimate farce because it is a farce about a farce. It continues to delight audiences around the world.  

The physical abilities, the timing, the pacing and the use of a multitude of props all challenge the actors in the talented cast assembled by The Milwaukee Rep for its production of this comedy. They prove that they are all up for the task. It is especially good to see Laura Gordon take off her director’s hat and show off her comedic skills in her role as the quirky Dotty Otley, the maid in charge of sardines, among other things.  

Gerald Neugent as the bumbling Garry Lejeune; Deborah Staples as Belinda Blair, the sanest of the bunch; Sara Zientek as the harried stage manager Poppy along with her overworked stagehand and fill-in actor Tim Allgood, played by Joe Boersma, all contribute to the hilarious whole.  

Filling out the parade of players were Aaron Christensen as the insecure hemophiliac Frederick, whose physical antics were unbelievable; Jonathan Gillard Daly as Seldson Mowbray, reliable as the unreliable drunk; Kelley Faulkner as the sexy, temperamental Brooke Ashton; and Joe Dempsey as Lloyd Dallas, whose challenges as director on stage and player off stage are formidable.  

In the process of the story, we encounter every director’s nightmares - characters who miss their lines and/or cues, actors with egos bigger than their talents, conflicting liaisons between actors, props that don’t appear or don’t disappear as required for the story, doors that won’t open or won’t close, actors who question the believability of the script, and no-shows, or actors who pout behind closed doors, to name a few.  

The play is divided into three acts - a dress rehearsal, being backstage as a performance is going on, and a final disastrous production. In my view, Act II was the funniest by far. We hear the play performed for an audience as all sorts of crises are going on backstage simultaneously.  

Dan Conway gave us a very functional scenic design, Mathew J. LeFebvre notable costumes, Andrew Cissna and Matt Callahan effective lighting and sound designs, and Jill Walmsley Zager authentic dialect coaching for the British accent.  

Credit for overall competent direction belongs to KJ Sanchez, who must have had a lot of fun and fewer headaches than did the director of the play within the play, working with such a competent cast of actors. Considering the physical energy required in a play of this ilk, I hope the actors were having fun, too. They looked like they were.  

If you like a whole lot of craziness, “Noises Off” will amuse you greatly.   

“Noises Off” runs through Dec. 22 at the Quadracci Powerhouse Theatre, 108 E. Wells St., Milwaukee. For show times and tickets, call 414-224-9490 or visit www.Milwaukee.Rep.com