Noises Off proves that too-frequent gags have diminishing marginal returns | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

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Noises Off proves that too-frequent gags have diminishing marginal returns

But this Windy City Playhouse production is still good, frothy fun.


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Frothy and insubstantial, Michael Frayne's Noises Off is a cute and silly romp through the run of a terribly doomed fictional performance. Hard-nosed director Lloyd Dallas (portrayed with dry wit by Mike Tepeli) leads this play within a play and tries his best to whip his daft and melodramatic cast into shape—all to no avail. Lines are forgotten, love triangles grow complicated, sardines get tossed, and the wheels rapidly fall off this rickety contraption.

As act two begins, the audience is invited to get up from their seats and walk around to take in the glorious disaster from backstage. The behind-the-scenes view has a live-action Looney Tunes spirit and showcases director Scott Weinstein's flair for slapstick comedy. His cast may be one of the hardest working onstage in Chicago right now: just watching them run up and down stairs and in and out of doors leaves one breathless. Unfortunately, even the best slapstick has limits (Three Stooges aside), and hoary gags such as simulated sex acts and violence played for laughs are repeated too frequently, producing diminishing comedic returns.

Amy J. Carle delights as the amorous Dotty Oakley playing the frowzy Mrs. Clackett; Rochelle Therrien soldiers forth admirably and energetically as the insufferable diva Brooke Ashton playing the dim-witted ingenue Vicki, and Will Casey offers more than a few chortles as the lovably inept oaf Selsdon Mowbray playing the Burglar.   v

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