Review: Segal’s “Noises Off” enraptures with a riotous farce-within-a-farce

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May 29, 2017

This winter the Segal Centre turns the heat up and the lights on for “Noises Off”, the wildly popular comedy by Michael Frayn about a ragtag group of actors who frantically try to pull their act together to put on a show. Read the Hub’s full review below by Alisha Ruiss.

GK Chesterton wrote that “Humor can get in under the door while seriousness is still fumbling at the handle.” In Noises Off, fumbling is part of the fun.

Following his successful directorial debut of Travesties, Jacob Tierney is back at the Segal to direct this show, one he long dreamed of producing. Often described as “the funniest play ever written”, this relentlessly paced farce within a farce is an actor’s dream, a love letter to the theatre that happens to also be just as entertaining for those unfamiliar with trodding the boards. Its combination of both linguistic and physical comedy means there is something in it for everyone.

Thankfully, this group full of talented, award winning actors did it more than justice, wielding axes and sharp humor with equal vehemence, and running about with a dizzying amount of flowers, bags and, of course, the ever ubiquitous sardines.

Leading the cast in the role of the seasoned actor Dotty was the incredible Martha Burns, herself a veteran of the stage and screen. Likeable from her first moment on stage, she played a solid Mrs. Clackett, the housekeeper who has been in the family for generations and whose desire for a quiet afternoon watching the telly is thwarted by the unexpected visitors who keep showing up.

Those visitors include Flavia and Philip Brent, a tax evading English couple played by Belinda Blair (Chala Hunter) and Fred Fellowes (Marcel Jeannin), and real estate agent Roger Tramplemain and his “prospective tenant”, Vicki, played by Garry Lejeune (Andrew Shaver) and Brooke Ashton (Amanda Lisman), respectively.

Shaver, whose sense of timing is excellent, is particularly hilarious as the constantly incomprehensible Garry. Lisman is a comedienne par excellence, winking and nodding specifically at the stereotype of the pretty-dumb actress with overly presentational style acting. If slightly overdone at times, some of her expressions reminded one of Carol Burnett, who, incidentally, played Dotty in the movie version of the play. Jeannin plays an impressive Fellowes, whose pratfalls were frighteningly real and Hunter rounds out the foursome as the know it all cast gossip who is trying to save the show.

Daniel Lillford makes a loveable confused Selsdon, whose constant drinking is a source of consternation for his castmates and crew of two, the much put upon stage manager Poppy – subtly and beautifully played by Kaitlyn Riordan – and the equally taxed techie Timothy Allgood, (Michael Musi) whose palpable nervousness coupled with his earnest desire to please gave him some of the biggest laughs of the night.

Directing this motley crew of actors is Lloyd Dallas, played by David Julian Hirsch, known for his TV work on Naked Josh and Weeds. Tierney cast the role younger than it is traditionally played, and while Hirsch portrayed the exasperated director convincingly enough, it was a little difficult to believe that someone so-good-looking-it-hurts could claim his charm was fading.

Pierre Étienne Locas’ production design was elegant and simple, complete with a rotating set which changed over to the “backstage view” for the second act and Louise Bourret’s costumes were, as usual, spot on.

here were at times such a glut of simultaneous comedic hijinks, one hardly knew where to look, particularly in the second act. A little pruning in order to better highlight certain moments and some minor pacing adjustments would be helpful but overall, from the opening front of house announcement to the final blackout, the show is a joy. Run and see it. Just don’t slip on any sardines.

Review by Montreal Theatre Hub Contributor Alisha Ruiss.

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