This sounds like an exaggeration, but I promise that it's not: Noises Off at PlayMakers Repertory Company in Chapel Hill is, honest-to-goodness, the funniest thing I have seen in quite some time. It reminded me that live theater is magical – I cannot think of a single movie which is as funny as this live-action comedy. Michael Frayn's writing is brilliant – how any human is able to write something so tight and fast-paced is beyond me. It's not a popular piece for nothing. Under the skillful direction of Michael Michetti, the cast is able to capture the blissful comedy of the piece, beat by beat.
Noises Off is about an ill-fated production of a farce called "Nothing On." The show is a true experience – PlayMakers thought about the details. For this play-within-a-play, they even went so far as to include a program-within-a-program, complete with fictional biographies for the cast of "Nothing On." The set rotates an entire 180 degrees and back, and the efforts of the backstage crew were not lost on me. The transition from onstage to backstage to onstage between acts was without a hitch.
I cannot say enough about the marvelous cast. The crown jewel of this ensemble was Ray Dooley as Selsdon. I saw a woman in the front row literally slapping her knee in laughter, thanks to Dooley's superbly-acted antics. While their characters were comparatively minor, Kelsey Didion and Brandon Garegnani proved that a well-rounded ensemble can really make or break a show. Their performances were the cherry on top of this hilarious sundae.
The second act was a testament to the caliber of this cast and creative team. While the first and third acts occur "onstage," the second act shows us what is going on behind the scenes of a performance of "Noises On." Obeying the rule "quiet on set," the cast conveys much of the second-act happenings through physical comedy. The entire act is a testament to the aforementioned magic of theater – it felt like a one-of-a-kind performance, and not something that happens eight times a week. Honestly, I don't know how the actors did it without a Gatorade IV drip – I was exhausted just watching them.
Noises Off runs through April 22nd. For tickets and information visit www.playmakersrep.org.