Noises Off Reviews
I've done little theatre, but I have, at that, done a little theatre. Despite the fact that this makes certain scenes funnier to me than to other people, it seems that a lot of theatre people really dislike it. This, I am given to understand, is because this isn't a very good adaptation of the source play. I suppose at some point, I will track down a copy of the play and read it, and then, I will have an opinion. However, for now, it reminds me with pleasure of school and community theatre experiences from when I was in high school. I've done a little bit of acting and a little bit of tech, and I really enjoyed it. Not quite enough to have sought out opportunities to do it as an adult, but enough so that I get quite a lot of jokes in the movie in ways that the average person does not. I guess this manages to make me the movie's ideal audience, being somewhere between average and a Theatre Person.
Lloyd Fellowes (Michael Caine) is the nominal director of the American version of a British farce called [i]Nothing On[/i]. Dotty Otley (Carol Burnett) plays the batty housekeeper, Mrs. Clackett. She is in a relationship with Garry Lejeune (John Ritter), who plays Roger Tramplemaine, who works for the estate agent and who is hoping to sleep with Vicki (Nicollette Sheridan), played by Brooke Ashton, herself sleeping with Lloyd. The house is owned by Philip (Christopher Reeve) and Flavia (Marilu Henner) Brent, played by Frederick Dallas and Belinda Blair, who I'm pretty sure are sleeping with one another all along. The house is being robbed by just some random burglar (Denholm Elliott in his final role), played by deaf and drunk Selsdon Mowbray. The movie starts with the opening on Broadway, but we flash back to the dress rehearsal in Des Moines, a matinee in Miami Beach, and an evening show in Cleveland. However, what's more important than the show is the interactions of the actors.
The matinee in Miami Beach is, hands down, the best part. Lloyd has come down from New York, where he's directing [i]Hamlet[/i] in Queens, because Brooke is threatening to quit. Garry is convinced that Dotty is sleeping with Freddy and is determined to get his revenge. Lloyd needs stage manager Tim Allgood (Mark Linn-Baker) to buy flowers for Brooke, but assistant stage manager Poppy Taylor (Julie Hagerty) thinks they're for her. He also brought a bottle of whiskey, which Selsdon thinks is his. Or ought to be, anyway. So there's an enormous amount of conflict, and it's all taking place backstage. And because it's backstage, and because it's during a show, it's all done in whispers, gestures, and other attempts to prevent the audience from being aware that anything is happening other than the play they've paid to see. Possibly the best part is the reactions of the backstage guard (J. Christopher Sullivan), who doesn't get a single line. Which I suppose means I should be grateful he's credited at all.
To be honest, I've never liked the fact that Lloyd is directing two shows at once, especially given that one is barely above community theatre and one is on its way to Broadway. It doesn't seem fair to either production. I mean, the hope is that [i]Nothing On[/i] can be good enough to really be a success on Broadway, and it's quite clear that the kinks haven't exactly been hammered out in Cleveland, much less by Miami Beach. This isn't much like something that's debuting on Broadway having never been on a proper stage before, something that's going through previews to find out what works and what doesn't. We see a bus ad that says that this has been a London smash hit, so the only possible changes are to Americanize it, and you don't want to do that too much given that it's a proper British farce. However, it's quite clear that the actors need the work. Dotty, who's such an old hand that she's financing the production in part, doesn't even always get her lines right.
To be further honest, I think one of the reasons some theatre people don't much like this production is that actors don't really come across very well in it. This may be true in the original play as well, I admit, and it's true that I don't know. However, there's Garry, who can't talk unless he's scripted. There's Freddy, who's always admitting he's stupid about whatever has come up this time. There's Brooke, who manages to be the dumbest one in the show. And, yes, there's Selsdon the drunk. Come to that, Lloyd is no prince, either. I can understand his frustration, because his actors are pretty much morons. However, he's not very nice to his backstage people, and he needs Tim about as much as anyone. It's a complicated play technically, full of doors and sardines and foley and things, and he needs them to work or else it doesn't matter what's going on in front of the audience. At the dress, Tim is basically said not to have slept for days. Lloyd is still a jerk to him. He isn't even sleeping with Tim.
Of course by the end I shouted out "This would make a great play" and apparantely it is a great one. Perhaps it's like a Cirque du Soleil event. Live is the absolute only way to go, otherwise there genuinely is no point.
But remember, I've never seen the live version of this gem, to me, it's a favorite classic comedy film filled with antics, wit, slapstick. It's one that I love from the 90's and recommend to anyone who appreciates a laugh.