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LIGHTNING REVIEW: Cast shines in enjoyable train wreck

The cast of 'Noises Off' is Scott Treadway, Laura Woyasz, Ralph Redpath, Brenna Yeary, Michael MacCauley, Willie Repoley, Barbara Bradshaw, Garrett Long and Preston Dyar. The cast of 'Noises Off' is Scott Treadway, Laura Woyasz, Ralph Redpath, Brenna Yeary, Michael MacCauley, Willie Repoley, Barbara Bradshaw, Garrett Long and Preston Dyar.

When the curtain opens on "Noises Off," the rowdy farce at the Flat Rock Playhouse, the potential is plain to see.

There are three doors on the ground floor, stairs to a landing, three more doors, plenty of furniture to run around and a box to trip over.
As the actors Ralph Redpath and Scott Treadway observed in an interview before the show opened, there's a lot of business.
In three acts, the fast-paced farce takes us through the chaotic devolution of a British stage production, from a nerve-taxing dress rehearsal on stage, to the backstage combat among cast members in a state of turmoil and jealousy one month later to the on-stage wreck of an ending six weeks after that.
"Noises Off" opens with director Lloyd Dallas, played by Michael MacCauley (Lt. Brannigan in "Guys and Dolls") trying his best to prod, cajole and herd his cast into making the play "Nothing On" stage ready. It's approaching midnight, then past midnight, then early morning of the day "Nothing On" is set to open. We get hints of dozens of things that could go wrong: Selsdon Mowbray (Ralph Redpath), an alcoholic stage veteran, may or may not make his cue (and may or may not even be on site); Frederick Fellowes, a gentle actor delightfully played by Preston Dyar, is in an emotionally fragile state ("his wife left him this morning," a fellow actor helpfully informs Lloyd); Brooke Ashton (Laura Woyasz), something of a dim bulb to start with, keeps losing her contact lenses; Garry Lejeune (Scott Treadway) thinks he knows more about theater than anyone; Tim the stage manager and Poppy the assistant stage manager are summoned and sometimes they show up. Add to the mix off-stage romances, two-timing and love triangles, and the train wreck is clear way ahead of the steep grade. If young guidepost is all's well that ends well, you'll want to skip "Noises Off."
The ensemble cast pulls off the complicated script with amazing agility, mentally and physically. Particularly in the first act, MacCauley precisely plays the anxious director, about to explode at the incorrigible cast. Before we see him we hear him stomping down the center aisle of the Playhouse shouting at an actor for missing a cue or reinterpreting the playwright's work.
MacCauley and Dyar, as director and actor, play one of the funniest scenes early on when the actor is begging the director to explain why he must carry a box offstage. Lloyd the director resorts to making up a series of fictional explanations for lines, costumes or stage business that Frederick the actor just doesn't get.
"Noises Off" is a rare a three-act play staged at the Playhouse. Intermission comes after the long first act; the final acts go quickly.
One of the best parts does not involve actors at all but the stage crew switching the set between acts II and III from the backstage view to the stage view; it takes about five minutes, after which the audience applauded appreciatively. It's another masterwork of set designer Dennis Maulden and the Playhouse crew. And while we're on visual delights, watching the impressively toned Miss Woyasz as Brooke in costume (Victoria's Secret underwear) is far from the worst way to spend two hours.
In Act II, the audience watches from backstage as the hostilities, mistaken perceptions and jealousies hit a fever pitch. By the time the third act opens, six more weeks into the run, it's no surprise that a happy ending for the ill-fated show ("On" or "Off") is not only out of reach but beyond imagination. By now relationships have deteriorated to a toxicity level that makes meltown a certainty. The final 15-minute sprint is physical and fast-paced and at times tedious as the play and the play within it crash to the finish.
The actor Ralph Redpath, the Playhouse veteran of more than a hundred shows, describes "Noises Off" as a valentine to the theater, for its glimpse backstage and its many winks at the foibles of actors and directors. Director Don Stephenson, a college roommate of Treadway, deserves a hand for pulling together something that so disastrously comes apart. It takes a lot of skill, among director and actors, to make such a multilayered piece of work look effortless.