When I first saw Noises Off as a 14-year-old at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, I didn't know theater could do that. A dozen years later—and after watching dozens and dozens of plays—I'm still not quite sure how Noises Off does what it does. What's clear, though, is that Michael Frayn's 1982 backstage comedy is perhaps the world's most exactingly constructed play, and certainly one of its funniest. It centers on a third-rate British theater troupe staging an abysmal bedroom farce, and it's essentially the same thing three times over—just with snowballing levels of lunacy as the company's disastrous personal dynamics and dubious talents collide in hellish but hilarious ways.
This production is Third Railâs first farce in years, and a departure from its usual sharp-tongued or politically tinged fare. While it canât eclipse my first fling with Noises Off, director Scott Yarbroughâs rendition is more than serviceable, even if the second act could use some polish.
It's a mostly solid cast, but a few actors stand out. Damon Kupper, in a garish orange shirt and (not orange) Carrot Top wig, has a command of physical comedy thatâs simultaneously smarmy and daffy. Even daffier is the black bustier-clad Kelly Godell, who spends the play unflappably barreling ahead with careful line readings, even as everything around her crashes into smithereens. And weâd be nowhere without Maureen Porter as the de facto mother hen: Sheâs the glue holding together both the play and the play within the play. Despite some questionable casting (Isaac Lamb exudes far too much teddy-bear cuddliness to play the beleaguered, snarky director), these performers bring methodâand, surprisingly, humanityâto the madness.
Winningstad Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, 235-1101. 7:30 pm Thursdays-Saturdays and 2 pm Sundays through Jan. 11. $20-$43. Tickets here.