There’s no need for reinvention when it comes to “Noises Off,” Michael Frayn’s 1982 trouser-falling, door-slamming farce about a third-rate troupe of actors putting on a third-rate farce, which is now receiving its second Broadway revival via the ubiquitous nonprofit group Roundabout Theatre Company.
For “Noises Off” to work on a basic level, its thoroughly intricate physical activity must be staged with the precision of a ballet. But a great production, which this revival certainly is, builds the slapstick around truthful performances, thus making the chaos feel natural.
The play opens on the dress rehearsal of an inane British sex farce, where nothing seems to be going right: lines are missed, props won’t work, the condescending director is in the midst of multiple affairs and losing his patience and one actor, possibly drunk, keeps disappearing.
Act Two, set backstage during an actual performance a few months later, is a tour-de-force of silent comedy, with the actors playing pranks on each other due to misunderstandings and raging emotions. The final act, set during yet another performance of the play, gets even crazier, and all sense of order is lost as the cast relies on improvisation to somehow make it to the end.
Jeremy Herrin, who recently staged “Wolf Hall” on Broadway, has brought together a dynamic ensemble cast of stage veterans including Andrea Martin (“Pippin”), Campbell Scott (“Royal Pains”), Tracee Chimo (“Bad Jews”), Daniel Davis (“The Nanny”), David Furr, Kate Jennings Grant, Megan Hilty (“Smash”), Rob McClure (“Chaplin”) and Jeremy Shamos (“Birdman”).
Hilty is especially memorable as a buxom, airheaded actress, often waving her arms like a cheerleader doing a routine, and Shamos is endearing as a sensitive actor who gets nosebleeds at the slightest hint of violence.