Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

REVIEW: Comedy Corrals Laughs from Chaos, on and off Stage

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

REVIEW: Comedy Corrals Laughs from Chaos, on and off Stage

Article excerpt

Comedy ballet" might give the wrong impression. Tutus rarely squish on sardines, nor do dancers en pointe force cacti as proctological devices or threaten dismemberment with axes. At least not in ballets I've seen.

Theatre Tuscaloosa's "Noises Off," running -- and leaping, tumbling and stumbling -- in the Bean-Brown Theatre, is balletic in the sense that movements must be choreographed, moments coordinated so that the whole thing won't fall apart. It's comic in the sense that even if something did go horribly wrong, it'd be easy to mistake it for part of the script. Except there might be actual, instead of feigned, blood.

"Noises Off" is a play about a play, "Nothing On," a mediocre if not outright horrible farce, shown in three bits of its existence. The first act is a clumsy dress rehearsal when it seems nothing will indeed go on. The second act spins the entire two-story set around to show the audience there's even wilder mayhem backstage, among the alcoholic, lovelorn and jealous cast, as it bumbles through a mid- run matinee performance. The third act turns the set back, and shows the play in its death throes, as all the betrayals, rivalries and misunderstandings threaten to implode onstage.

So this farce behind the farce is every producer or director's nightmare, every actor's worry -- am I one, or all, of those divas, ditzes and dullards? -- and, thanks to schadenfreude, an audience's delight.

As the adage more-or-less goes: Tragedy is when I fall down; comedy is when you fall down. Many things succumb to gravity in "Noises Off," including pants, sheets, axes, bottles, bottoms, dignity and more pants. Props should go to props, stage management and other Theatre Tuscaloosa crew just for keeping the blur of dresses, flowers, boxes, bags and so on in all their places.

Part of the fun of "Noises Off" is the insider thing: Playwright Michael Frayn was clearly mocking himself, as a writer of similar lame farces. The actors and crew of Theatre Tuscaloosa's production might well know some of these types and traumas, from personal experience or observation. It's tempting to ponder just who Gary Wise, playing "I am God" director Lloyd Dallas might have patterned his sometimes condescendingly patient, sometimes hairily explosive, usually cleverly manipulative moves on.

Certainly not from actual director Tina F. Turley, who has done a rather deity-like job herself of corraling this into balletic chaos. While even slapstick comedy can't be purely mechanical -- if you don't somehow relate to or care for the characters, it's as hollow as most Adam Sandler or Jim Carrey messes -- there is so much of the physical required here that it's a kind of miracle this thing not only works, but makes you miss the characters afterward.

As always with the ever-

present and ever-entertaining Wise, whatever and whomever he might have been inspired by, it becomes all his on stage. …

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