MARION — With a dotty Dotty, a babbling Brooke, a bungling burglar and a director at the end of his rope, sardines aren’t the only things to go flying during the deafening comedy of “Noises Off.”
The boisterous British farce is hilarious on a good day, but Giving Tree Theater’s brilliant adaptation turns everything upside down and up a few notches.
I’ve seen the show on several area stages, but never like this.
It’s a peek inside the final rehearsal for the play “Nothing’s On,” where the cast clearly is not ready for an audience. Greg Smith simmers to an eventual boiling point as the director, Lloyd, who is trying to keep himself, his cast and his show together — without much luck.
Act II takes the audience backstage, where the high jinks are even wackier, then in Act III, we’re back onstage, where the meltdowns and romantic triangles and rectangles are wrecking the written dialogue.
Typically, audiences see revolving scenery, but the intimate theater in Uptown Marion doesn’t have the luxury of space in which to turn things around. So designer Richie Akers turns the action around in the most clever ways.
Front stage becomes backstage by switching out furniture and flipping over curtains I didn’t even realize were curtains on the upstairs walls, making them look like the back of fake walls called “flats.”
Nothing is flat is this production. The pace is rambunctious, slowing just long enough for audience members to catch their breath — barely.
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The slapstick timing is impeccable, especially when an ax is wielded to presumably split open a head or two, resulting in side-splitting laughter from Friday’s sold-out opening night crowd. Wisely, the run has been extended to five weekends, through May 6. Once the word gets out, tickets will be hard to get.
Everything that can go wrong with a show goes very right for lucky ticket holders.
In this play-within-a play, the actors can’t remember their entrances and exits, they can’t remember what props to carry in and out, can’t remember to pull up their pants, and can’t remember who’s dating whom offstage.
Every real-life actor creates his or her screwball counterpart with mirthful glee, but perhaps the biggest round of applause goes to Lauren Galliart. She plays the pretty bad — and pretty, bad — actress Brooke, gesturing woodenly and wide-eyed while prancing around in her underwear.
That’s becoming just another day onstage for Galliart, who recently appeared in “her skivvies” in “Fun Home” at Giving Tree Theater, and in “The Wild Party” at Theatre Cedar Rapids. According to the “Noises Off” program notes, “Her parents are very proud and a little concerned.”
Each character has endearing, cringe-worthy quirks. Selsdon (Scot Hughes) skulks around the stage, looking for booze; Garry (Gregory Stoll) never finishes his sentences; assistant stage manager Poppy (Emma Drtina) generally looks like a deer in the headlights; Frederick (Zach Kelchen) hops around the stage with his pants around his ankles; stage manager Tim (Andrew Barnd) is a jack-of-all-trades, ready to fix scenery or step into any role at a moment’s notice; Belinda (Andie Paasch) has her nose in everybody’s business; and Dotty (Kathryn Bowrey Huang) is fixated on sardines and several men.
It’s a little hard to get the British accents in your ear at first, but before long, the cadence and dropped consonants become easier to understand — even through the madness and mayhem.
Bravo to the real director, Jay Burken, for creating a road map without a GPS, taking the audience on a wild ride.
WHAT: “Noises Off”
WHERE: Giving Tree Theater, 752 10th St., Marion
WHEN: Through May 6; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
TICKETS: $26, (319) 213-7956 or Givingtreetheater.com
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