Thursday, January 17, 2019

REVIEW: Noises Off at Windy City PlayHouse

Having just seen The Play That Goes Wrong, I was very excited to bring my 10 year old son to see what one could easily call its theatrical ancestor.  That show is Noises Off, which is playing at the Windy City Playhouse now through March 31.

Unfortunately, my son couldn't make it (darn you, procrastinated projects) but I got some friends together and we were able to attend the opening night.  The show was very funny and well worth seeing.

Noises Off , written by English playwright Michael Frayn, is a farce in 3 acts.  It's got a great premise and an even greater gimmick.  The premise is that a British troupe is putting on a farce called Nothing On.  We see the show three times- the first time at a very tense dress rehearsal the day before opening night:  at a show about 30 days into their run; and the very last set of performances at a theatre in the mythical town of Weston-SuperMare. We see the production and the relationships between the actors break down completely, and we see everything go wrong.

Backstage at the theatre things can get a little tense.  Photo by Michael Brosilow.
The gimmick is that the second show is seen from an entirely different perspective- backstage.  Typically, productions build a rotating set, and turn it around during the intermission. At Windy City, the entire audience picks up and moves to the back of the theatre for the second act, which is literally backstage.  This works really well, and you get a strong feeling of being where the action is.  The action moves back to the front of the theatre for the last act, which shows the play having come completely off the rail.

The production was great.  In a farce, the play and the stakes have to continue to wind up and ramp up.  If they don't, the play loses pressure, and instead of hilarious, it becomes silly.  (Or as Lloyd, the director says in the first act, this play is about doors and sardines, doors and sardines.) There's also lots of pants dropping.

What's a farce without somebody losing their pants?  Photo by Michael Brosilow

The director of the show Scott Weinstein manages to keep the pressure strong, the timing crisp, and the sardines a' plenty, and that brings lots of laughs.

 I thought all of the actors were great, but I wanted to make special mention of a few actors: Will Casey as the end stage actor Selsdon (think a poor man's Peter O'Tool from My Favorite Year) has a dim-witted charm that delights, and Rochelle Therrien as Brooke manages to "act" so poorly that it is hilarious without being bad, which is really threading the needle. 

Also notable were Amy Rubinstein as Belinda, the mother-hen actress who tries to solve everyone else's problems. Rubinstein is the founder and artistic director of Windy City, but she ably wears her acting hat here. Alexander Quinones as Tim did a fine job of being the put upon technical director/understudy (weirdly, in the video below, they have a different actor playing Tim.  Not sure if he dropped out or what, but Quinones does a fine job. 

Truthfully, there are no bad actors here-- everyone plays their part exceedingly well. And, considering that it was a British play done with British accents by an American cast-- there were no klunkers, accent wise.  Great job, dialect coach Kathy Logelin.

Here's a teaser video that is available also on the theatre's website:

My favorite act was the second act, backstage, where you see the shenanigans that go on.  In this production there's some very physical and delightful business that moves at a breakneck speed-- which is just the right speed for a farce such as this.  There's a bit where an actor has to jump up the stairs with his shoes tied, avoiding an actor coming down, and an errant whiskey bottle that seems to be all over the place.  They get everything right!

If you like to laugh, Noises Off would be a great date night choice for you!  There's also a bit of a fancy bar in the lobby, and drinks are allowed into the theatre-- drinks range from $6 on up (some of the cocktails are $12 or $14) so bring your credit card.   The theatre has thoughtfully supplied drink rails which are a big help.

 The show runs from January 9 – March 31, at the Windy City Playhouse, 3014 W Irving Park Rd.
Tickets range from $45-85 and can be purchased online at

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