The cast of "Noises Off" sure knows how to pull off mayhem perfectly.
Led by director Fred Gloor, this stellar nine-person cast at Weathervane brings wild hilarity to British playwright Michael Frayn's famous play-within-a-play where everything that could go wrong does. In this wonderful door-slamming farce, we see the first act of the sex comedy "Nothing On" performed three times.
The cast of "Nothing On" starts out with a general sense of decorum at its technical rehearsal in the first act, although director Lloyd Dallas (Adam Alderson) is losing his patience and temper. Here, we are introduced to inarticulate, over-acting lead man Garry (Dmitri Georgiadis) as Roger, the older Dotty Otley (Jo McGarvey) as the prattling housekeeper Mrs. Clackett, Brooke Ashton (Adrienne Jones) as sex kitten Vicki, clueless Freddie Fellows (Scott Davis) as Phillip and peacemaker Belinda Blair (Olivia Rae King) as Flavia.
Showmances are revealed and things begin to go awry. King's character Belinda Blair is the voice of reason, but even she enters the fray around this unsalvageable show, in which everyone ends up behaving very badly.
In no time, these theater folks start letting their personal lives get the best of them, a premise that starts to accelerate wildly. The completely enjoyable hilarity that follows is thanks to the cast's meticulously orchestrated timing, slamming doors, pratfalls, gags and freakouts.
All hell breaks loose backstage in a gut-bustingly funny second act full of meltdowns, lovers' spats and confrontations. In this short act, which takes place during a live performance of the play-within-the-play, the Weathervane actors deliver constant laughs.
The mimed freakouts that each of the characters delivers backstage as the action is going on "onstage" are hysterical. The actors grab crazy costume elements and repeatedly pass around booze and flowers, barely remembering to do the show, they're so wrapped up in their back-stage drama.
Through all this, everyone takes turns babysitting the cast drunk, the excellent Russell Kunz as Selsdon Mowbray.
None of this would work without the perfection of Richard Morris Jr.'s two-level, two-sided set. It sits on a wheeled platform to show the play-within-the-play's set on one side for the first act, and is then rotated to give the backstage view of the play on the other side for the second act.
Frayn came up with the idea that a farce was funnier from behind when he watched his own "The Two of Us," which he wrote for Lynn Redgrave, from the wings in 1970. His "Noises Off" title refers to a sound cue from off stage, in this case all the theater folks yelling and fighting backstage.
Adding to the show's hilarity are Jones, whose character spouts out her lines no matter what mishaps are going around her, and Rachel Szeles and Tyler Barhorst as panicked stage managers.
Things get so bad, the company's dysfunction shows up in full force by the third act, in which all hell breaks loose ON stage. Georgiadis executes the most marvelous pratfall I've ever seen live, falling down the carpeted stairs face-first on his belly during "Nothing On's" live performance.
The show, which has some adult language and sexual references, is best for mature audiences.
Kudos also go to Weathervane props designer Laura Niehaus in this whirlwind of props, which includes plates of sardines constantly toted on and off stage. "Noises Off'' has hilarious running gags regarding said sardines, lost contact lenses, nosebleeds and dropped pants, all adding up to an evening of great fun.
Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or email@example.com. Follow her at @KerryClawsonABJ or www.facebook.com/kclawsonabj.