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Noises Off

Michael Frayn's [1982] play centered on a theatrical company bumbling through the British provinces in a silly sex comedy, Nothing On. With the first act taken up with a disastrous dress rehearsal, Frayn's coup de theatre came in the second act, when the curtain came up on the behind-the-scenes shenanigans of a feuding cast. Third act was devoted to a presentation of the play so lax that most of the lines were ad libbed.

With:
Carol Burnett Michael Caine Denholm Elliott Julie Hagerty Marilu Henner Christopher Reeve

Michael Frayn’s [1982] play centered on a theatrical company bumbling through the British provinces in a silly sex comedy, Nothing On. With the first act taken up with a disastrous dress rehearsal, Frayn’s coup de theatre came in the second act, when the curtain came up on the behind-the-scenes shenanigans of a feuding cast. Third act was devoted to a presentation of the play so lax that most of the lines were ad libbed.

In Marty Kaplan’s smart adaptation, the company is an American troupe working toward a New York opening. Action is framed – and the acts are divided – by director Michael Caine fretting outside a Broadway theater during the opening-night performance. Otherwise, Kaplan and director Peter Bogdanovich are faithful to their source.

Thesps include Carol Burnett as a slovenly housekeeper; John Ritter as a real estate agent planning to give sexy Nicollette Sheridan a personal tour of the bedroom; Christopher Reeve and Marilu Henner as the owners of the home who slip back into Britain from their tax haven in Spain; and Denholm Elliott as an inept burglar.

Bogdanovich has judged his approach to the material astutely, resisting impulses toward comic overkill or transferring focus away from the stage. He takes his cue from the actors, and the camera is always in the right place.

Popular on Variety

Noises Off

Production: Touchstone/Amblin. Director Peter Bogdanovich; Producer Frank Marshall; Screenplay Marty Kaplan; Camera Tim Suhrstedt; Editor Lisa Day; Music Phil Marshall (adapt.); Art Director Norman Newberry

Crew: (Color) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1992. Running time: 104 MIN.

With: Carol Burnett Michael Caine Denholm Elliott Julie Hagerty Marilu Henner Christopher Reeve

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