Sometimes the best drama - and comedy - in a theater is to be found backstage.
That's what inspired British playwright Michael Frayn to write his farcical play-within-a-play Noises Off!, which runs through July 29 at the Jungle Theater in Minneapolis.
Noises Off! follows the on and off stage antics of an acting troupe as they make their way from dress rehearsal to closing night. While the show has received one rave review, other critics are decidedly mixed. Read on for more...
Cheryl Willis in "Noises Off!" at the Jungle Theater in Minneapolis
Photo: Michal Daniel
Sass has orchestrated an amazing, wonderful "mess" of a show, and assembled a cast who showed up with their own bags of tricks, including impressive skills in clowning and dance. It's such an ensemble show, and they were all so perfectly cast, that I don't find it necessary to single anyone out. Terrific performances--without exception.
Frayn's play was inspired by the observation that the backstage drama at many plays is often wilder and more interesting than what's happening onstage. That's absoluely true: real life is amusing, especially when dramatized in such elegantly absurd fashion as Frayn manages in this classic script. The script is so good that it's hard to ruin--I must admit to laughing hard during the opening minutes of Act Three, but I think I would have been laughing much more often if Sass and his team had let these characters keep their feet on the ground.
Kimberly Richardson and E. J. Subkoviak in Noises Off! at the Jungle Theater in Minneapolis
...the Jungle Theater has rallied a team of talented contributors under the direction of Joel Sass who turn the intimate space into a thriving theatrical universe, teeming with minute-to-minute disfunctionality and frustration, along with empathy and responsiveness....The ensemble builds up a dynamic that increasingly blurs the line between the real and fictional play and demonstrates once again that human creativity and outrageousness are not mutually exclusive.
If Sass's staging does not always grab me by the seat of the pants, it is because of timing and casting. When it's working, the production is tightly wound and everything clicks. At other times, it drags, and you can see the thinking of both actors and director. This on/off quality is supposed to peel back the workings of the theater for laughs. Instead, it slows down the production that should be a tour-de-farce.
Did you see Noises Off! at the Jungle Theater? If so, what did you think?