SALT LAKE CITY — As a reviewer, it is a delight to see a show so well-executed in every aspect–in set design, in acting, in directing, in lighting and sound and costuming–that one’s only challenge at that point is to try and refrain from gushing. I will strive to do my best in this review of the Grand Theatre’s Noises Off!.
Noises Off! is the story of a cast of actors who perform in the fictional play Nothing On. Quite frankly, Nothing On is not good, and tensions form among the cast members and stage hands. As the interpersonal difficulties become more frequent, the antics of the performers backstage begin to interfere with the action on stage.
This production of Noises Off! is impressive because of the stellar direction. Not only does Anne Stewart Mark deliver a dazzlingly tight show in its rhythm and pace, but she delivered with innovative and creative comedy moments. These moments were things I had not yet seen in other productions of Noises Off!. This is a show that is frequently produced (the UTBA archive has four other reviews for the show), so it is refreshing to see a creative mind approach the material with originality and insight. One example of this was a scene in which two actors are tied together by bed sheets, and are trying to exit out of two different doors. The madcap moment occurred when another character, Selsdon (played by Don Vandergrift), found himself straddling the tied fabric, at a loss as to how he had found himself in such a predicament.
Speaking of Vandergrift, he was a stand-out performer in the show and perhaps my favorite cast member: a bumbling, forgetful drunk whose penchant for libations and difficulty hearing caused all sorts of pandemonium. The other “actors” are forced to baby-sit the elderly performer both onstage and off as they scurry to hide his booze and remind him when he must get onstage. All the while Vandergrift delivered a believable portrayal of an actor past his prime, but with just enough sparkle in him to be beautifully endearing.
All of the actors in Noises Off! were brilliant and very well-cast, from Lauren Rathbun, as the distracted yet affable Brooke, to Daniel Beecher as the inarticulate Garry. Both of these actors were remarkable, not only for their deft comedic timing, but for their prowess at physical comedy. Rathbun pranced and gesticulated all over the stage, providing visual comedy with her over-the-top gestures and clowning. Beecher’s Gerry was a character doomed to accidental pratfalls, and he performed them convincingly without worrying me about whether he was safe, which is a difficult task indeed.
David Marsden as Lloyd, the director of Nothing On, was every bit the dry, acerbic, and commanding presence the show needed to balance out the other frothy and fatuous performers. My favorite line in the show, uttered from the impatient director from somewhere in the audience, was a deadpan and completely hilarious “no.”
The set design by Kyle Becker was an incredible highlight of the show. His set was expertly flipped from front to back to front again with precision and efficiency, a challenging enterprise. Becker was aided by three stage managers, Joe Killian, Natalie Colony, and Carolina Silva, who were all quite impressive in the way they handled the capacious set. I have always been curious about the work of stage managers in this show, which is very involved, fast-paced, and cluttered. I imagine with actors as seemingly professional as these, their work must have been easier than it would be with a less competent cast. I was also delighted by the fish pattern on the wallpaper, which fit the theme of Nothing On.
I also appreciated the lighting design, by Ashley Barentine, which was obviously the result of a great deal of preparation. Not only did Barentine have to light the front of the stage, but the back as well when the set is rotated and the audience watches Nothing On from backstage. This made Barentine’s lighting design extra impressive and noteworthy.
I had an incredibly enjoyable evening laughing my heart out at The Grand, and will be encouraging those I know (and those who read this review), to go and see this delirious, delightful, delovely production.