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“Noises Off” at CSC: Doors and Sardines Will Never Get So Many Laughs

Review By Liz Eichler of “Noises Off”: Cincinnati Shakespeare Company

Justin McCombs in “Noises Off”

Audiences jumped to their feet in enthusiastic applause for “Noises Off,” playing now through June 9 at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company.  They laughed, guffawed, chuckled, chortled, loud and long and clear–and you will too–with the hysterical premise and great performances of the CSC ensemble in this now classic farce or movement, mayhem, and missing sardines.

“Noises Off,” by Michael Frayn, is the story of a theatrical troupe trying to put on a show, but the backstage antics and characters, love triangles, and mishaps are more engaging than the story onstage.

One of the funniest is Brooke Steele as Brooke/Vicki, the blonde bombshell and exercise queen, who is the opposite of a method actress.  Brian Isaac Philips as the Director/Lloyd is appropriately “Godlike” and commanding, and quite good. Dale Hodges as Dotty/Mrs. Clackett captures the put-upon help as well as the confused cast member. Joneal Joplin as Selsdon/Burglar is both a seasoned performer and corner drunk. Jeremy Dubin as Garry/Roger is a pelvis-thrusting lothario to a jealous beau. Justin McCombs is a deliciously sweet bit of undercooked dough in Frederick/Philip. Kelly Mengelkoch is both a ray of sunshine and the glue that holds things together in Belinda/Flavia.  Sara Clarke and Geoffrey Warren Barnes II are the overworked and underappreciated Stage Manager and Assistant Stage Manager. The entire ensemble works so well together in this fast paced comedy.

The story is told in 3 parts—the first is Act 1, the second and third are in Act 2.  The first is the dress rehearsal—which the actors believe is just the tech—hours before opening. The second is the backstage version of events after the play has visited a number of cities, and the third is when the play “is on its last legs.” Third time’s a charm, with the audience shouting out the lines with the actors. Director Ed Stern orchestrated the intricate Swiss watch movement and motivation in this joyful piece. The timing is impeccable.

The audience loved this play, and it was one of the most varied audiences I’ve seen at CSC, especially regarding age. The teenagers, to the parents to the grandparent age responded viscerally on the preview I attended.

The set, by Joe Tilford, is a proscenium theatre, set with the interior of a mansion featuring a series of very study doors the actors are constantly opening and closing, going in and out, just missing each other–until they don’t. The staircase cut the view of those in House Left, so try to sit as centrally as possible, so you don’t miss a single gag. Props by Lacey Ballard (especially the sardines) and the multiple costume pieces (Reba Senske) are well done and integral to the plot.

This is a guaranteed laugh fest for all ages. You’ll feel like you’ve had a workout after watching the onstage activity and the backstage mayhem–and laughing so hard. Tickets are going fast for “Noises Off.” Contact cincinnatishakes.com for yours!