The New York Times has called Noises Off the funniest play ever written. It is a farce about an acting company getting set to start a three month tour of a farce. It is also the 9th play in the Ottawa Little Theatre’s 100th season.
Should you see it?
Noises Off is told in three acts. Act one is the final dress rehearsal of a play called “Nothing On”. Noises Off is about an acting company getting ready to start a long run of “Nothing On” and during this “rehearsal”, we’re witness to the typical breaks, stops, and interruptions while cast members try to remember blocking, work out details with the director, and just chat it up. It’s a beautiful blend of showing just enough of what “Nothing On” is supposed to be, and introducing us to the cast and their interpersonal relationships. Act two takes place after Nothing On’s already been opened a while, and brilliantly takes place entirely back stage, giving you a look at how things are running behind the curtain – which is to say, not smooth. Act three gets you back in front of the set, purely as the eyes of the audience of Nothing On’s final show with the cast desperately trying to keep it from flying off the rails completely.
One of the greatest things about Noises Off is that it perfectly builds from what came before to ever-escalating hilarity. The funny in act three comes completely because we know how the play (Nothing On) is supposed to go, we know how far off track everything is getting, and we know how hard the cast is working – or not – to get through it.
In short, Noises Off is a win for two reasons. 1) It kind of is the funniest play ever written (or at least that I’ve ever seen). 2) It’s a fun look behind the curtain that anybody with any love for or interest in theatre at all will find entertaining and interesting.
Which begs only the question, how does Ottawa Little Theatre, celebrating their 100th season, do with a play that really can’t loose?
In a word: marvelous.
Winning the show for laughs are veteran Sarah Hearn and newcomer Dana Truelove (who may well be my newest stage crush here in Ottawa). Truelove is pure gold and easily earns the biggest laughs in the play by being hysterically oblivious to anything but her own work when on stage. For her part, Hearn is humorous equally while trying to remember what to do with the newspaper and sardines as she is while regifting the presents from Sardinia.
Some great physical comedy pairs with fun characterization from Tim Ginley’s overworked stage manager (and stand-in for multiple characters) and Josh Spark’s violence averse Freddy who has a move in act three that’s just priceless. Geoff Gruson, Shaun Toohey, Danielle Washam, Dianna Renee Yorke, and Barry Caigrer round out what’s a fairly strong cast all round.
OLT’s set, as usual, is well done. This is particularly important for a set that needs to be turned a full 180 degrees between acts. That bit of well executed awesomeness is worth the two fifteen-minute intermissions the play serves up to make it happen. (I hope somebody’s gotten some quality video of that set change.)
There were a couple of places, particularly in the second act when there was so much going on (and a lot of it was silent and physical), where things would have been even funnier had they been tightened up quite a bit, but on the whole, director Richard Elichuk delivers a very funny piece of theatre that does right by the funniest play ever written. I’m laughing to myself just thinking about it. Don’t miss your chance to see it.
But that’s just my opinion and I’d love to know what you think? Who was your favourite character? Which part of the show had you laughing hardest? Can you name a funnier play? Tell me in the comments below.
For more information on Noises Off, running at the Ottawa Little Theatre, check our preview article. Thanks to my life and delays and things, you’ve only got a few days left to see it so get out there this week!