The new year on Broadway kicked off Thursday night with the debut of the Roundabout Theatre Company's revival of the backstage farce "Noises Off." NY1’s Roma Torre filed the following review.
Full disclosure: I worked on the original production of "Noises Off.” It was 1983 and I have regarded it as the funniest play I have ever seen. I saw several productions since including the last one on Broadway and none of them, including the current revival, have matched the sustained hilarity of that original company. However, this one comes fairly close.
Michael Frayn's inspired comedy is set during the run of a British sex farce called "Nothing On." It begins with the rehearsal in a theatre outside of London as we meet the actors and director - a motley crew with egos as large as their talent is small. It is a hilarious mix as they mangle what is already a bad play. The second act takes place backstage where the company's offstage romances are unraveling onstage; and act three reveals the same scene from the front this time played deep into the run when we find the troupe an emotional, mental and physical mess.
It has been said "dying is easy, comedy is hard" and this one's among the hardest as it requires a combination of split second comic timing, physical humor and gut busting silliness that could so easily amount to tedium with one false move.
Fortunately, the cast, led by the great veteran Andrea Martin, rises - or should I say pratfalls - to the occasion. The other two standouts are David Furr as an inarticulate dolt and Megan Hilty as a dim, jiggly ingénue. Such bad acting takes supreme talent.
In farce, direction is key, and here Jeremy Herrin shows a deft hand orchestrating the zaniness, though I felt it could have been even funnier.
Humor is highly subjective and even at its best "Noises Off" is not to everyone's taste. Sardines and slamming doors happen to be my cup of tea even when the staging seems a bit off.