Nashville Scene Review: Noises Off

Nashville Rep’s Noises Off Is an Across-the-Board People-Pleaser

Director René Copeland scores a definite success with the silly farce

by Martin Brady

You can say this about Michael Frayn’s Noises Off: No matter how many times his play gets produced locally — and it’s been pretty often in Nashville over the past decade — there is always the promise of a tremendously successful night at the theater and entertainment for all, even for those repeat audiences who’ve seen it all before.

Such is the case at Nashville Rep, where a splendid company, guided by the precise staging of René Copeland, scores another definite success with the silly farce, which stands as a fully engaging exercise in high energy, well-honed timing, a few fairly brutal pratfalls and delightful character work that sustains a great deal of side-splitting nonsense over three rather epic acts.

The setup cashes in on the automatic intrigue of insider theater life, as a traveling company of British thespians performs a ridiculous comedy called Nothing On. We track the players’ on- and offstage antics from the disastrous dress rehearsal to two other performances (of the first act only) on their road tour, as they struggle to find their stride under the haranguing lordship of a very intense director, and then later present the play while their interpersonal relationships are disintegrating with every passing scene. The quality of the production-within-a-production goes downhill fairly predictably, but hilariously so, with many unplanned madcap moments evoking big laughs, as Nothing On eventually becomes pitted by injured, limping performers and technical mishaps.