Noises Off is not one play but two - simultaneously a traditional sex farce, Nothing On, and the backstage farce that develops during Nothing On's final rehearsal and tour. The two farces begin to interlock, as the characters make their exits from Nothing On only to find themselves making entrances into the even worse nightmare going on backstage, and exit from that only to make their entrances back into Nothing On. In the end, at the disastrous final performance in Stockton-on-Tees, the two farces can be kept separate no longer, and coalesce into one single collective nervous breakdown.
Noises Off won both the Evening Standard and the Olivier Awards for Best Comedy when it was first produced, and ran in the West End for nearly five years. Michael Frayn's most recent play, Copenhagen, won both the Evening Standard Best Play Award in London and the Tony Best Play Award in New York.
This extremely popular play-within-a-play by Tony Award winner Frayn has been newly revised for its Broadway revival. Because of its complexity, it is a demanding read. Acts 1 and 2 are actually the same act performed at different times in different theaters: the first presents the final night of rehearsals for Nothing's On, a sex farce, in which the director, seated in the audience, shouts direction to the actor on stage; the second is the same act but seen from backstage during a touring performance less than a month later. Act 2 is formatted in double columns, allowing the reader to follow the actor in character on stage and the same actor out of character off stage and the folly that he or she is involved with behind the scenes. Act 3 comprises the same cast performing another play, Noises On. Complex it is, and as clever and as concise as something this multileveled can be. Written by a man with a vision, this is recommended for academic and large public libraries. Elizabeth Stifter, Brooklyn, NY Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.