By STUART NULMAN
Imagine being a stage director trying to helm a final rehearsal of a fast-paced comedic play just hours before the opening night of what will be a lengthy national tour. Besides the thankless task of getting your cast of actors to remember their lines and their cues, the director has to deal with many of the backstage issues, concerns, frustrations and illicit private lives that are enough to make that poor director want to tear his hair out.
The result is the constantly hilarious production of “Noises Off”, which is now playing at the Segal Centre until February 19.
“Noises Off” is a terrific example what the concept of a “play within a play” is all about. The play deals with the staging of “Nothing On”, a frenetic British bedroom farce that deals with money, theft, illicit passion, plenty of door slamming and sardines that are used as red herrings. But while harried director Lloyd Dallas has to keep things together onstage just hours before opening night, he somehow has the unenviable task of keeping his lunatic cast (both onstage and offstage) within a semblance of sanity, whether it to placate his three paramours from clawing each other’s eyes out, or making sure a veteran actor stays sober so that he can remember his onstage cues, let alone his lines.
As each act progresses on both “Noises Off” and “Nothing On”, things go from a war of nerves, to pure pandemonium, to utter chaos … and you can’t help loving every minute of it! Both plays within a play run with the anarchistic frenzy of a classic Marx Brothers movie (circa 1935), and the second act in particular is a hilarious example of “ballet comique”, as each performer deals with the issues they have to deal with – in between their onstage appearances – without missing a beat. And what is so amazing about this production is not only the revolving set, but having the audience witness the inspired lunacy that goes on between the entire company on both sides of the stage; a feat that is quite difficult in theory, but this company, in practice, pulls it off with flying colours (and I’m surprised they haven’t become walking wounded by the time the final curtain is lowered).
What makes “Noises Off” work so well as a laugh-a-minute night at the theatre is not only the excellent script by Michael Frayn, but the entire ensemble cast of Martha Burns, David Julian Hirsh, Chala Hunter, Marcel Jeannin, Daniel Lillford, Michael Musi, Kaitlyn Riordan, Andrew Shaver and Amanda Lisman, who steals the show as Brooke Ashton, the voluptuous, red headed offstage and onstage paramour, especially with her greatly exaggerated gestures and reactions. And all of this madness is masterfully helmed by veteran Montreal-born TV and movie director Jacob Tierney, who molds this lump of clay into a comedy masterpiece.
“Noises Off” is a wonderful, laugh out loud romp, which proves that sometimes the best comedy show does not necessarily have to take place in front of the curtain.
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And also in Segal Centre news, due to the widespread popularity of its upcoming production of the rock ‘n’ roll musical “Million Dollar Quartet”, which is scheduled from April 23 to May 14, the Segal Centre has recently announced that the run of the show has been extended from May 17 to 21 at the Cinquieme Salle of Place des Arts … and all of this before the first performance even takes place this April!
This Tony Award-winning musical is based on the true story of the once-in-a-lifetime jam session that took place in December of 1956 at the famed Sun Records studios in Memphis, Tennessee, which involved four legendary figures of the early days of rock music: Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins. I saw “Million Dollar Quartet” last November in Branson, Missouri, and if the Segal Centre’s production plans to be as spectacular as the one I saw in Branson, then Montreal theatergoers are in for a million dollar night of classic rock music.
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For more information, or to purchase tickets for “Noises Off” or “Million Dollar Quartet”, call 514-739-7944, or got to www.segalcentre.org.