BY MATT MOORE
“Since 1982, Noises Off has delighted audiences with a mixture of door-slamming hilarity, fraught character interactions, and good old-fashioned fun.” — Jeff Walker, Director
Caveat: I have directed two musicals at Fauquier Community Theatre, but don’t let that disqualify this review. I choose to direct at FCT because the organization, resources, and performers are top-notch.
Another caveat: I love, love, love Michael Frayn’s Noises Off. It’s my favorite comedy in all of theater, so much so that I will never direct it myself for fear of ruining it. But don’t let this disqualify my review either. This show is a tough one to stage, and it’s often not done well.
Final caveat: I was introduced to the director, Jeff Walker, and he is a real talent. I like Jeff Walker’s work very much. And that’s the first part of this review. It isn’t really a caveat, because his skill and finesse speak for themselves.
I’m sad to see that Noises Off directed by Jeff Walker is entering its final weekend at Fauquier Community Theatre. If I had my way, this show would continue for months. It really is the perfect rendition of what I believe to be the most hilarious play in modern theater. Hailed as the ultimate “play within a play,” Noises Off is set on various stages in 1983 England, first backstage during the final dress rehearsal of a new farce; then on stage some weeks later as the bond between cast members begins to fall apart; finally backstage again on the last night of the run as chaos erupts and the actors attempt to hold together the shattered remnants of the show.
As I mentioned, this show is hard to direct. Very hard. There are difficult set requirements, incredibly tight and specific stage directions that can have a chain reaction if not timed perfectly, prop interactions that bring fear into the heart of stage managers everywhere. This is not a show for a budding young director — it’s for a seasoned professional. And that’s exactly what FCT has in Jeff Walker. Jeff has been directing for decades, and it shows. His timing, sensibility, and overall production vision for Noises Off are unparalleled.
In addition, the technical aspects are wonderful. The lighting is clean, crisp, noticeably excellent without being distracting. Audio is perfect and on point. The set (designed by FCT veteran Doug Barylski) is, in itself, a character in the show — you’ll find yourself marveling at the way the set transforms over the two short intermissions. All of those things — pacing, blocking, set, audio, lighting, costumes, etc. — require a unified creative vision and the ability to manage multiple personalities and disciplines. Jeff, in his quiet way, has done this perfectly.
All of these things don’t matter, though, without outstanding casting. The cast of Noises Off is wonderful. Each of the actors has worked incredibly hard to build a world-class ensemble worthy of awards. Carolyn Wong shines as Dotty, the world-weary actress who doesn’t suffer foolishness. Andy Shaw fills the role of Lloyd the Director (a classic character much beloved in modern theater) with just the right combination of authority and mania. Roger, played by Michael Williams, is an incredibly believable character. As his anxiety increases and his control lessens throughout the show, the audience is at the edge of their seats waiting to see what will happen next.
Jessica Brooks sparkles as Vicki, the young up-and-coming actress struggling to make it on the stage in spite of relationship battles, costume issues, and more. We find ourselves rooting for Matigan Nagle, who plays the much-suffering Poppy, as her life gets turned upside down. Andrew Morin’s portrayal of Philip is simply hilarious. His understanding of space and physicality is second to none. Nora Zanger brings a strong comedic sensibility to her role as Flavia, functioning as a true “fifth business” as she accelerates the plot through believable character interaction.
FCT veteran Hugh Hill is perfect as washed-out actor Sheldon Mowbray. Of special note is his quest to regain a bottle of Jack Daniels through ever-increasing and more creative ways, but with quiet deliberation — it’s hilarious. Finally, the man who I believe truly steals the show: Josh Vest, who masterfully fills the role of Tim Allgood, the forever belabored Company Manager. Josh’s performance alone is worth the price of admission. In all, it’s an incredible ensemble. Even the understudies, Elizabeth Steimel and Ben Rawlins, are seasoned performers in their own right.
Noises Off is definitely PG-13. There are sexual innuendos, some (relatively) modest lingerie, and regular pants-dropping showing people in boxer shorts very briefly. That’s the nature of the British relationship farce of the 1970s and ’80s. It is plot specific and fits the show, but be forewarned before bringing young curious children. That being said, it is a perfect date night and you’ll be laughing for two solid hours.
As a long-time director, performer, and fan of the theater, I know Noises Off delivers. Never discount how world-class community theater can be when done correctly. I view community theater as the Olympics of the stage, because the performers do it for pure love of the art — and FCT’s Noises Off wins a gold medal in my book. Go see this show while you still can.
Running Time: Two hours 30 minutes plus two 10-minute intermissions (with concessions sold outdoors)
Noises Off plays Friday and Saturday, March 25 and 26, 2022, at 7:30 PM and Sunday, March 27 at 2:00 PM at Fauquier Community Theatre – 4225 Aiken Drive, Warrenton, VA. For reserved-seat tickets ($16–$18), call the box office at (540) 349 – 8760, or purchase them online.
COVID Safety: Fauquier Community Theatre’s COVID Policy is here.
Matt Moore has directed 25 plays and musicals in the past decade including FCT’s Shrek The Musical and Jesus Christ Superstar. An Emmy-nominated commercial director, he has performed regionally for 24 years in the Fools! Improv Troupe and volunteers with youth programs