The chestnut sails in Frank Anzalone’s production of NOISES OFF at the Walnut Street Theatre, but not consistently.
The second act of Michael Frayn’s sturdy comedy is far and away superior to its bookends. Even then, some gambits, such as swinging an ax and miming scenes that look like various forms of copulation, are repeated too often.Despite the ups and downs, and a range of performance levels, Susan Riley Stevens and John P. Connolly showing the way, Frayn and his onstage-backstage hijinks prevail,.
The first act improves as Anzalone’s production runs. Its problem is easily fixable. The actors are trying too hard and being too broad in an effort to be funny. A lot seems forced or meant to generate laughs. The downside of that the comic doesn’t register as funny as it might with more subtlety, We see the magicians doing their tricks. They give away the game. Better would be for everyone at the rehearsal we’re watching for a farce called “Nothing On,” to be more natural and relaxed, showing the skill of veteran hands rather than the desperation of one who works overtime to get a joke over.
The first act of NOISES OFF sets up a lot, and the exposition is helpful, but you need to see more people going about their business and less show. The second is an immediate improvement. For once thing, size and exaggeration are called for. All is going amok as a troupe tours in a farce, and we witness the unraveling. Even with the repetitions, Anzalone’s pranks work, and the director deserves credit for cooking up some new business I haven’t seen in about 25 “Noises Offs” and carrying them off.
How handy to have Ben Dibble aboard when you need someone to do a variety of acrobatics necessitated by having his shoes tied together while he’s onstage and can’t fix them. Why are the shoes tied together? Ah! The cast of “Nothing On” is at war with one another, and one character has crossed the laces in cruel revenge for a possible romantic slight. Read more reviews from Neals Paper >>>
[Walnut Street Theatre, 9th and Walnut Streets] March 13-April 29, 2018. walnutstreettheatre.org