Since its London debut in 1982, when it won the London Evening Standard Award for Best Comedy, “Noises Off” has become one of the best known of recent British comedies. Some noted critics have called it the funniest show they’ve ever seen, a literal fall-out-of-your-seat-laughing kind of play.

In this frantically funny farce-within-a-farce, a third-rate acting troupe puts on a tired sex farce called “Nothing On.” Frayn’s play gives us a view of both the backstage antics of troupe members and the onstage performance they give. The title, “Noises Off,” is a theatrical term referring to offstage sound effects, usually made by the actors themselves.

Expect all the usual chaos of an English comedy. Doors open and close as actors stampede in and out with split-second timing. It all leads to lots of confusion with rising voices and falling trousers.

At times, the line between the reality of “Noises Off” and the stage reality of “Nothing On” becomes so blurred that it’s difficult for the characters to know where one ends and the other begins.

Celeste Philippon and Christopher Scott serve as co-directors for the production and their skills complement each other well for this huge, complex production. Scott has specialized in character development in the numerous shows he has directed at CLT and elsewhere. Philippon makes her directing debut with “Noises Off,” and it’s a chance for her to capitalize on her extensive technical background on many CLT productions.

Philippon’s technical skills really get a workout in this show. In fact, there will be additional activity on stage at intermission that may hold many audience members right in their seats.

What’s interesting about “Noises Off” is that we get to see the same play three times, but never in exactly the same manner. The set changes at the first intermission and Act Two shows us the play from backstage.

In Act Two, the players’ version of “Nothing On” has been running for close to a month and has not gotten any better, but relations between the cast members have gotten worse. Love triangles and hidden bottles of whiskey become the central point of these actors’ lives, and the play takes a back seat.

When the set changes once more for Act Three, and it’s another month later, we see the play again from the audience’s point of view. Now the offstage strain is showing onstage and the already thin plot of “Nothing On” disappears. The finale takes place at the show’s final performance in Stockton-on-Tees when the two farces can be separate no longer.

For Scott, who is marking his 10th season with CLT, this is an opportunity to direct a show he has seen many times. “This is one of the best-written comedies out there and it’s a wonderful show for a community theater to do,” he said.

Over the years, he has delighted in being a part of all the community theater backstage camaraderie with its fun and nonsense, as well as the occasional personality conflict and performance crisis. Scott said that’s why “Noises Off” has a kind of cult following among theater people.

Note: there is a smattering of adult content.


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