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|Written by Wayne Current|
|Tuesday, 08 September 2009 17:35|
Last Thursday, September 3, the Gladstone Theatre opened its 2009/2010 season with Noises Off. The well known farce by Michael Frayn is a staple of the Ottawa theatre scene and has been staged by various theatre groups of all stripes over the years. I, however, had never seen this old chestnut performed before, so I was pleased when (Cult)ure's theatre editor asked me to attend the show and review it for the magazine.
I have no reservations saying that, if you enjoy a good comedy, you will certainly enjoy the Gladstone's production of Noises Off. It is an extremely well executed production. The audience was laughing loudly right from the start, and even broke out into spontaneous applause mid-play on at least two occasions.
The cast, as a whole, is quite strong. This is crucial, as comedy is very much a team sport. The Gladstone has found a group of actors that are fun to watch, and - in a very talented ensemble - Steve Martin (playing Gary Leguene) stood out. Those who are familiar with the play won't be surprised to hear that Martin's energetic and extremely physical performance stole the show in Act II.
I have mixed feelings about Frayn's script and the farce genre itself. The first act nicely sets up the frantic pace of the second, but by the third Frayn tries to ramp up the energy even further. All the character development is over by the conclusion of Act II, and Act III degenerates into a rapid fire sequence of gags. Those who enjoy the style of high-energy comedy that this play specializes in are sure to love the manic pace of Act III, but, in all honesty, I found it all a little tiring by the end. It's worth noting that many in the audience were laughing all the way through Act III.With Noises Off, the Gladstone is giving the audience what they want.
So much has been said about the elaborate set that I feel required to comment on it briefly. It is certainly impressive. One of the challenges with the Gladstone is that it is a very small space, so by breaking the set down into smaller components the set designer (Valentik) allowed for a larger set than would otherwise be possible. The downside with Valentik's solution is that it is necessary to work a second intermission into the play in order to return the set to its original form for Act III. This break in momentum, unfortunately, detracts from the impact of the final act. It does provide ample time to grab a quick beverage though (should you be so inclined).
I was particularly surprised by the quality and generosity of the food spread served in the post-premier gala. Shrimps, oysters, gourmet pizza, and champagne were all offered in prodigious quantities to celebrate the opening of the season. The Gladstone certainly knows how to throw a party!
The reason this play has been performed so many times in this town is because Ottawa theatre audiences love a good farce. With Noises Off, the Gladstone Theatre is giving their audience what they want. I'm optimistic that they have a winner on their hands.
Great review! I wish I'd been able to come opening night. I love prodigious quantities of pizza!
Dave: I'm glad you enjoyed the review. If you see the show, drop by (Cult)ure afterwards and let us know what you thought of it.