In 1970 British playwright Michael Frayn was backstage watching a performance of a farce he had written for actress Lynn Redgrave. He observed, “It was funnier from behind than in front, and I thought that one day I must write a farce from behind.” That one day came a dozen years later with Frayn’s hilarious comedy Noises Off, opening this week at the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts. It’s about a group of actors rehearsing a dreadful sex comedy called Nothing’s On — and there’s more humor in their efforts to make the show work than in the script for the ridiculous show they’re attempting to stage. It involves doors slamming, onstage, offstage and backstage intrigue and lots of verbal wit. The first act is an onstage rehearsal; in the second act, at a different theatre, we see the performance from backstage; the third act, at another theater 10 weeks later, is devastatingly funny as almost everything that can possibly go wrong really does. Noises Off won the Laurence Olivier Award in 1982 for the London season’s best comedy; it was a Broadway hit the following year.
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