The Rapidian

Noises Off Comes To Grand Rapids Circle Theatre

Noises Off proves a frenetic, funny, and very English farce.
Cast of Noises Off

Cast of Noises Off /Ashlee Lambart, Grand Rapids Circle Theatre

When it comes to theater, sometimes you want King Lear grieving over poor Cordelia, and sometimes you want a guy accidentally gluing a plate to his hand. Noises Off, currently playing at Grand Rapids Circle Theatre, decisively belongs to the latter category. It's an energetic, bonkers show about staging an energetic, bonkers show (titled Nothing's On), the kind of thing in which people dash madly in and out of rooms and find themselves dropping their pants more often than is customary.

The play begins the night before Nothing's On is to debut. The director (an earnest Tom Kaechele) is stressed. You would be, too, given some of the people he has to work with, who have more confidence than they might deserve. Take Greg Rogers' Selsdon, who shines with an inner peace even as he hunts for his next bottle.

The world of Nothing's On - and, to a lesser extend, Noises Off - is a quintessentially British one, in which people are funny things, driven hither and thither by low appetites (tax evasion, jiggery pokery). Take sex ("gladly": that's your line): too often in theater, it's a monumental force, mother of betrayal and even tragedy. Here, it's mostly played for laughs (Brooke's underwear-clad bottom, as she descended the staircase, nearly brought down the house).

Backstage tensions build, resulting in tense, manic scenes. The play becomes a marvel of timing; one missed cue or flubbed line could send it into collapse, but that never happened. This could not have been easy to pull off. It's chaotic, but it's a contained chaos, served up with professionalism and style.

Noises Off has one ambition: to leave you happier walking out than you were walking in. That it succeeds in doing is a tribute to the hard work and talent of cast and crew. Now where did I put those sardines?

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