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Noises Off

Jeremy Shamos, Kate Jennings Grant, David Furr, Andrea Martin & Campbell Scott

                                              By Michall Jeffers

Andrea Martin is an actor who can do no wrong.  So it comes as no surprise that in Noises Off, she effortlessly leads the company to glorious comic heights, and the audience to a fevered pitch of laugh out loud delight. Noises Off is both a door slamming French farce, and a behind the scenes glimpse of a play that starts out being not so great, and ends up in shambles.

The scene opens on the interior of an ersatz Tudor inspired English country lodge. Set designer Derek McLane has created the perfect serene backdrop for the hi jinks of playwright Michael Frayn’s chaotic shenanigans.  The audience is treated to the sight of former TV star Dotty Otley( Martin) dressed as a housemaid, complete with housedress, tight brown curls, and thick Cockney accent.  When she goes up on her lines and her business (phone…plate of sardines…door) the director of this play within a play comes running down the aisle. Lloyd Dallas (Campbell Scott) is quickly losing his battle with exasperation at the unfocused actress. Lower class accent is swiftly replaced by dulcet Mid-Atlantic pear shaped tones as Dotty pleads her case. It’s just so hard to remember everything. But then, Lloyd points out, they do have all that time until the show opens tomorrow.


Megan Hilty, Daniel Davis, Kate Jennings Grant, Jeremy Shamos, David Furr, Andrea Martin

Director Jeremy Herrin achieves just the right blend of anxiety, ambition, and a combination of ego and dimness in the characters. It’s eminently apparent that this is a troupe of players who are either on their way down in their careers, or who just don’t have what it takes to thrive at their craft. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the case of starlet Brooke Ashton.  Megan Hilty is inspired in her portrayal of the none too bright big haired bleached blonde who literally counts her steps to make sure she hits her marks onstage. Brooke is transcendently unaware of just how awful she is. We might be tempted to feel sorry for the bombshell if she didn’t constantly wear a smile of self-satisfaction.  She squeaks her lines, poses on stage like a Vanna White wannabe, and never loses confidence, even when crawling around on the floor looking for a lost contact lens.

Do not neglect the program insert which informs us that the name of the play being butchered is called “Nothing On.” Rather than spending intermission texting, relish the information “Sardines by Old Salt Sardines,” “Straitjacket by Kumfy Restraints Ltd.,” and appreciate the creative names being employed: Martha Norcheesie, Robin Housemonger, Tim Allgood. And who isn’t heartbroken to have missed “the controversial all-male version of The Trojan Women; author Housemonger’s first play “Socks Before Marriage;” and the Hauptbahnhofbrau lager commercial featuring Brooke Ashton as Vicki, “the girl wearing nothing but good, honest, natural froth?”

Everyone featured in the cast in praiseworthy. Kate Jennings Grant, as Belinda Blair, is sickly sweet while addressing everyone with extreme terms of endearment, all the while reveling in her reign of gossip monger. TV’s Star Trek: The Next Generation fans will get a real kick out of seeing Daniel Davis as Selsdon Mowbray, the lovable drunk who just can’t seem to get it right. Jeremy Shamos is the chronically insecure Frederick Fellowes, who always needs to have everything spelled out . David Furr, as Garry Lejeune, who is incapable of finishing any thought or sentence, gives the audience a wow moment that is well worth waiting for, and totally unexpected. Tracee Chimo as Poppy, the stage manager,  quivers on the brink of revealing her explosive secret. Rob McClure as the stagehand/understudy Tim, takes stage fright to a whole new level. A nod must also go to Michael Krass, whose costume design complements and completes the mayhem onstage.

This is Noises Off third incarnation on Broadway since its 1982 debut.  It would be difficult to imagine that any production could better represent the slamming doors, absurdly broad characters, and truly breathtaking pratfalls. With the current political campaigns featuring what often seems like a parade of hapless jokers spouting endless wince inducing gaffes and platitudes, it’s a blessing to be able to laugh and feel good about the comedy enfolding.

Noises Off,  American Airlines Theatre227 W. 42 St.212-541-8457,, 2 hours 30 minutes

Through 3/6/16

Playwright:  Michael Frayn,  Director:  Jeremy Herrin .Set design: Derek McLane, Costume design: Michael Krass

Cast: Andrea Martin  (Dotty Otley), Campbell Scott (Lloyd Dallas), Tracee Chimo  (Poppy Norton-Taylor), Daniel Davis (Selsdon Mowbray), David Furr (Garry Lejeune), Kate Jennings Grant  (Belinda Blair), Megan Hilty (Brooke Ashton), Rob McClure (Tim Allgood),  Jeremy Shamos (Frederick Fellowes)