By Manning Harris
fmanningh@gmail.com

A “door-slamming farce” is how Director Richard Garner describes the British comedy “Noises Off,” by Michael Frayne, running through Sunday, August 14 at Georgia Shakespeare on the campus of Oglethorpe University.

It is an absolute tour de force in the art of stagecraft that will leave you breathless and in awe of the enormous skill, energy, and talent that you’ll witness. You will also exit laughing.

It’s about a supposedly mediocre British touring company rehearsing and performing a play called “Nothing On.” But there is nothing mediocre about the actors in front of you: They are the best in Atlanta, and they’re all swinging for the fences—the only sane way to perform this manic, absurdist backstage/onstage peek at this super-wacky company.

My companion for the evening saw “Noises Off” in London several years ago at a theatre called the Savoy (he remembered the name) and pronounced GA Shake’s the superior production. His verdict didn’t surprise me; I can’t conceive of a better production of this play.

“Noises Off” is a theatrical term for sound coming from offstage. That’s about all the plot I’m going to provide you. The “story” is so intricate, frenzied, and hilarious that a description here would be superfluous and confusing. But if you love theatre and especially actors who will almost kill themselves to make a show “go,” you must get your tickets now. By the way, there are two performances on both Saturday and Sunday (August 13 and 14). Oh yes, there really are lots of doors slamming and also—sardines. Enough said.

Who are these actors I keep raving about? Here they are: Chris Kayser, Caroline Cook, Joe Knezevich, Ann Marie Gideon, Mark Cabus, Tess Malis Kincaid, Allan Edwards, Scott Warren, and Caitlin McWethy. They outdo themselves. By the end of the show they have entered some loony, giddy theatrical netherworld. I almost start to fear for their sanity; but they are pros—the best—and I’m not worried.

There are so many zany, brilliant individual moments that it would take several pages of newsprint (cyberprint?) if I even started. You gotta see ’em.

If you’re looking for deep, meaningful content, “Noises” is not your cup of tea. (Sometimes I do wish they’d slow down just a little; even The Three Stooges—a Garner inspiration—had moments of quiet, albeit idiotic, contemplation.) But learning to revel in life’s absurdity is sometimes necessary for sanity. Did you ever see Ionesco’s “The Bald Soprano”?
Scenic designer Kat Conley has done it again; her revolving set is genius. And Doug Koertge’s costumes are wickedly witty.
We may be in the dog days of August; well, the “mad blood is stirring” (“Romeo”) out at GA Shake. Go see “Noises Off.” You’ll thank me (no tips, please).

For information and tickets, visit gashakespeare.org.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.