A joyful ‘Noise’ at Windy City Playhouse

You’ve never seen a dress rehearsal like this one.

When the curtain rises on “Noises Off” we, the audience, become privy to the doomed final run-through of the bawdy farce “Nothing On.” It should, for all intents and purposes, be quite a funny performance indeed. Unfortunately, between dropped lines, lost (and/or drunk) supporting characters, love triangles and far too many plates of sardines, audiences might not even get the chance to see the darned show. At least not the whole thing. And most certainly not the way the fictitious playwright might’ve intended.

Michael Frayn’s comedic classic “Noises Off”—directed by Scott Weinstein and performed with balletic precision by the always-wonderful Windy City Playhouse—is the play-within-a-play about an earnest troupe trying (and trying and trying) to get “Nothing On” on its feet … and off its face.

Windy City is nothing if not exceptional at building immersive spaces for their shows, and Noises Off features a scenic design by Jeffrey D. Kmiec that ranks as one of their most creative. Acts 1 and 3 are set in a traditional theatre setting, while Act 2 moves the audience smack dab into the middle of the backstage action (and reaction). For every slamming door shown on the stage during the “real” production,” there’s an equally explosive backstage bit of drama and it’s juicy stuff to witness.

It was hard to pick a favorite character of the fervent, thoroughly flawed bunch; maybe the relentlessly cheerful Belinda Blair (Artistic Director Amy Rubenstein) who soothes feelings while ruffling feathers with the latest gossip? Or perhaps it’s the long-suffering and slightly underwater Assistant Stage Manager Poppy Norton-Taylor (played with bewildered determination by Erica Bittner). It might be Ryan McBride’s Garry Lejune, whose leading man status slowly devolves into pratfall perfection, but this much is certain: No matter how good each of them is as a solo act (and they really, really are), the comedic heights that they reach as a fluid company are superbly fun to watch.

Fantastic drinks are always paired with the show—and lines of dialogue—and Noises Off was no exception; the “some kind of sex maniac” (gin, peach liqueur, blueberry simple syrup, lemon juice, and champagne) and the “Where is Selsdon?” (rosemary and lemon-infused bourbon, sweet vermouth, cranberry juice, and bitters) were two notable choices that went rather nicely with the madcap humor. The libations and snacks, in addition to the stylish lounge and bar area, make Windy City Playhouse a great spot to sit and grab a drink long after the curtain comes down—or crashes to the stage—whichever happens first. 

If you go

“Noises Off”

Open run

Windy City Playhouse, 3014 W. Irving Park Road, Chicago

Get your tickets at windycityplayhouse.com

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