‘Noises Off’ at Laurel Mill Playhouse is a giggle-a-minute farce

This slapstick, behind-the-scenes comedy parodies theater culture, and the cast pulled it off to perfection.

People like to hear gossip, watch fights, and gawk at car crashes. We look at negative situations and we’re glad it’s not us. Playwright Michael Frayn tapped into those instincts in Noises Off.

Director Alex Campbell whipped his players into a comedic frenzy at Laurel Mill Playhouse’s Noises Off. This show-within-a-show has many layers of comedy, and the cast pulled it off to perfection.

Garrett Crouch, Sterling Kee, Jeff Dunne, Dana Fleischer, Cassidee Grunwald, and Sam David in ‘Noises Off.’ Photo by Jessie Duggan.

Noises Off is a backstage farce packed with slapstick comedy, funny caricatures, and sardines. Noises Off follows a company of actors as they rehearse a flop called Nothing’s On through dress rehearsal, opening night, and a late-run performance.

The show takes the audience behind the scenes of theater, from nonsensical lines to cast members who irritate one another. It’s all about short tempers and short schedules.

John Mathews played Lloyd, the long-suffering director of Nothing’s On. Besides dealing with imbecilic actors, he also dealt with the affections of ditzy leading lady Brooke and emotional stage manager Poppy.

Lloyd’s exasperation at the line dropping and forgotten blocking (how actors move on stage) was hilarious. During rehearsal, he exclaimed: “Can we just get through the show once tonight?”

Jeff Dunne played a skilled but over-the-hill actor, Selsdon. For him, “The smell of the theater still holds me.” His looks of confusion when calling for his lines were comedy gold. There was a particular line about sardines that he repeatedly butchered.

Cassidee Grunwald spent much of her time running around frantically or sulking as Brooke. Heather Norden made Poppy a consummate theater professional — until she wasn’t.

Sterling Kee excelled in his nonverbal cues and looks of confusion as Freddie, who played a rich Arab. Freddie was particularly good at raising the director’s ire.

The bespectacled Garrett Crouch played Garry, the partner of Brooke. Crouch’s physical comedy, including pratfalls, was a highlight. His backstage tension with Kee’s Freddie was funny.

Sam David played Dotty, who played a maid, Ms. Clackett. Her British accent was spot on. Andrew Rappa brought weariness to set constructor Tim. He complained about doors that didn’t close. Dana Fleischer’s Belinda seemed to be the sanest of the bunch. She played Freddie’s wife.

John Mathews, Dana Fleischer, Sterling Kee, Sam David, and Garrett Crouch in ‘Noises Off.’ Photo by John Cholod.

What would Noises Off be without sardines? This show had sardines. Lots of sardines. Jessie Duggan was instrumental in that most important of props. (You can even pick up a sardine can souvenir at intermission.) Duggan, also the costume designer, put the men in elegant, British-looking suits.

There was at least one slap in the show. There was a comedic bit with axes being aimed at heads. Fight Choreographer CJ Cameron did good work there.

Cassidee Grunwald constructed a set that evoked the craziness of the show. The set design, either by design or by accident, was as disjointed as the show-within-a-show. The paint job appeared to be drab, and the walls shook when the players slammed doors. Marela Kay Minosa’s set decoration was minimal because the walls were mostly bare.

Laurel Mill did something interesting with its program for Noises Off: you can use an app to leave feedback for the actors (check with the staff on how to access it).

Noises Off gives the audience a glimpse into the world of theater, with all of its warts. It shows the agony and ecstasy of acting. It will make you wonder how any show is put on anywhere. It’s a giggle-a-minute farce.

Running Time: Approximately two hours and 15 minutes, including a 15-minute intermission.

Noises Off plays through March 24, 2024 (Friday and Saturday at 8 PM, Sunday at 2 PM), at Laurel Mill Playhouse, 508 Main Street, Laurel, MD. Tickets ($20, adults; $15, children 18 and under, seniors 65 and over, and active duty military) can be purchased online. Free parking is available at a nearby lot, despite the “Pay to Park” sign, and on the street.

The program for Noises Off is online here.

Noises Off
By Michael Frayn

Dotty: Sam David
Lloyd: John Mathews
Garry: Garrett Crouch
Brooke: Cassidee Grunwald
Poppy: Heather Norden
Freddie: Sterling Kee
Belinda: Dana Fleischer
Tim: Andrew Rappa
Selsdon: Jeff Dunne

Director: Alex Campbell
Costumes and Props: Jessie Duggan
Set Decoration: Marela Kay Minosa
Set Construction: Cassidee Grunwald
Fight Choreographer: CJ Cameron
Lighting and Sound: Bridget Monteith
Intimacy Coordinator: Christine V. Hurst


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