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September 10, 2013

Theater: ‘Noises Off,’ laughter on

‘Noises Off’
An Actors Theater of Louisville production. Directed by Meredith McDonough. Continues through Sept. 22 at the Pamela Brown Auditorium, 316 W. Main St. For more info, check out actorstheatre.org.

What better way to kick off a season of theater than with a comedy? How about a comedy with haphazard characters who happen to be actors involved in backstage drama and down-to-the-wire rehearsals where time is of the essence? Oh, and don’t forget about the doors and sardines. Well, it seems like a great idea, indeed. Actors Theatre of Louisville kicks off their 50th anniversary season with the amusing behind-the-scenes farce, “Noises Off.”

Each actor fully transforms into his portrayal of familiar archetypes that range in background and talent. This cast highlights the idiosyncrasies of trained actors and amplifies these quirks with abundance. Director Meredith McDonough has assembled a cast who understands not only these witless characters, but also the devotion to bring a show onto its feet and plough through the rehearsal process to opening night. The stereotypes and clichés of off-stage drama pop with rich fluidity. It’s moments like Brooke Ashton (Rebecca Gibel) meditating and doing a round of breathing exercises, or the not-so-articulate Garry Lejeune (Corey Brill) running his lines that those who are familiar with the stage will truly appreciate.

Despite the antics and backstage hysteria, the play happening on stage, “Nothing On,” is always the focal point. This is a script designed for actors to chew scenery and shamelessly act over-the-top. The athletic falls and tumbles by Nathan Keepers and Brill sparkle as “Nothing On” grows closer to certain doom. The most entertaining aspect about the production is that everything a theater artist is afraid of going wrong does, and we are delighted by this fact.

As a cast, each actor brings commitment with boundless amounts of energy and understanding of what comedy is all about. As we watch the performance from behind the scenes, the best bits come alive. Whether it’s Lloyd Dallas (Andy Grotelueschen) whipping a skirt off of his stage manager or the aged actor Selsdon Mowbray (Jeremy Lawrence) triumphantly snatching a bottle of booze, I extend kudos to this cast for each carefully crafted moment of comedy.

Garnished in pale green and salmon-colored accents, the set plays a prominent role as well. With slamming doors and forgotten plates of sardines in the play-within-the-play, the giant set stretches its legs in the second act. The cast takes every advantage for falls, slides and one impressive shoulder roll between scenes. Whether we see the backstage or the interior of “Noises Off,” the set is utilized in every way possible to the utmost comedic effect.

Steering clear into theatrical peril, the final scene in “Noises Off” provides major comedic payoffs and supreme timing. The tremendous gaffs and screw-ups by the final curtain are punctuated by each performer with individual strength as well as chemistry. Even though “Nothing On” is destined to be a fictional flop, “Noises Off” is a real delight.