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Noises Off
a Comedy
by Michael Frayn

COMPANY : Orange Box Theater [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Mark Squared Studios [WEBSITE]
ID# 5261

SHOWING : April 21, 2018 - April 29, 2018



The New York Times dubbed "Noises Off" “the funniest farce ever written.” Watch the doors slam, sardines fly, pants drop and bags disappear as a touring company of has-beens, wannabes, and never-will-bes flub through a terrible dress rehearsal to arrive at an amazingly awful performance. And believe it or not, the real show is backstage — where doors open to the director at the center of a love triangle, the voice of reason is a hard-of-hearing drunk and the leading lady is a cougar. Watch this cast become completely unhinged as they obliterate the lines between their characters and real life at the Orange Box Theater in Tucker.

Director Tiffany Roberts
Frederick Fellowes (Phillip) Jeremy Crawford
Selsdon Mowbray (Burglar) Eddie L. Oliver
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Nothing’s On
by playgoer
Monday, April 30, 2018
The set is serviceable, consisting of a two-story upstage unit with three doors and two single-level scene wagons left and right with two doors each. For the door-slamming farce "Noises Off" (which shows us three different views of the first act of touring farce "Nothing’s On"), these doors are all needed. The play also requires the scenery to revolve during the two act breaks, and the set is constructed to allow that. Set decoration with afro-centric design underscores the fact that the cast members are predominantly black.

References to locations in England and to Inland Revenue have been converted to Georgia/IRS references in Orange Box Theater’s production, but English accents are still in use by Cheveyo Madu Abayomi, playing the director of the farce "Nothing’s On," and by Emily Peiffer as the star of "Nothing’s On" (but only when playing her character of Mrs. Clackett; not when speaking as the actress Dotty Otley). Director Tiffany Roberts has let the other actors speak with American accents. This inconsistency reinforces the impression that the production has not quite jelled.

Michael Frayn’s script is a sure-fire laugh-fest as it transitions to backstage shenanigans in act two and onstage disasters in act three. Act one, however, sets up the situation with an oft-interrupted dress rehearsal of "Nothing’s On" that moves a little slowly in Orange Box’s production. For those who have never seen "Noises Off" before, this might not be much of a problem (although several audience members left after act two in the three-hour performance I attended). For those of us who have seen excellent productions of "Noises Off," the lack of speed and of spot-on characterization starts the show stumbling over a hurdle that the faster, more fluid remaining acts can’t overcome.

Mr. Aboyomi’s characterization is forceful and energetic, but comes across as more stagey than the characters who are supposed to be professional actors. Miles Triplett, as actor Gary Lejeune, doesn’t have a natural way of trailing off as the script requires, diminishing any difference between Gary the actor and Roger, the character he’s playing. The engaging Christiana Renee similarly shows little distinction between Vicki, the character of Roger’s girlfriend she’s playing, and Brooke Ashton, the ditzy actress. Eddie Oliver doesn’t show much gravitas as aged, alcoholic actor Selsdon Mowbray, and Jeremy Crawford shows us handsome leading man Phillip more than sensitive actor Frederick Fellowes. It doesn’t help that romantic entanglements among the actors, as required in the script, aren’t reflected in any onstage chemistry.

Joia Carter, as actress Belinda Blair, may not show a huge difference when acting in the role of Flavia in "Nothing’s On," but her delivery throughout is a delight. She adds sparkle to the proceedings with her attempts to keep the collapsing production of "Nothing’s On" from imploding completely. Jeremy Skidmore doesn’t make much of an impression in act one, as sleep-deprived jack-of-all-trades Tim Allgood, but he sparks the play to life in act two with his opening scene, then continues to impress with his attempts to fill in for missing actors in the rest of the show. Yasmein Ziyad, playing stage manager Poppy Norton-Taylor, has less fill-in work, but carries on with conviction throughout. Ms. Peiffer may not have the age her role as star Dotty Otley would suggest, but she has as much comedic ability as anyone onstage.

Director Tiffany Roberts has added some nice comic bits in act two and has staged the show so blocking provides relatively good sightlines (although audience seating of multiple rows on the same level can result in audience member’s heads obstructing some views). Acts two and three work well, but the slow pace of act one and the lack of distinction between onstage and backstage personas prove a fatal flaw in Orange Box Theater’s production. Michael Frayn’s script is largely foolproof, but this production emphasizes that pace and characterization are needed to turn a pleasantly slapstick comedy into a full-fledged, laughing-out-loud triumph of a farce. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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