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PlayMakers' Noises Off provides a peek behind the curtain

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Noises Off is an amusing enough collection of theatrical conundrums: a sendup of that hoary British genre, the low-grade sex farce, that morphs into a low-grade sex farce in its own right as it none too gently lifts the curtain on the backstage interpersonal intrigues common enough to theater productions small and large.

Yes, accords and misunderstandings occasionally make the drama offstage even more compelling than the one before the audience. And we've heard some circles award a level of gamesmanship to pranksters who challenge others to keep their misdeeds out of the public eye; Joe Orton isn't the only stage artist whose theatrical goals have basically boiled down to "getting away with it."

Though it's criminal to give away too much of the game here, suffice it to say that over playwright Michael Frayn's three acts, we ultimately see the consequences of such contretemps from both sides of the proscenium during a uniquely doomed theatrical tour. As the evening develops, everything from mild flirtations to blood grudges are pursued with less and less subtlety. Few things telegraph creative differences quite like the business end of an axe.

Under Michael Michetti's direction, this genial cast evokes most of the usual theatrical suspects, including Katie Paxton's oblivious sexpot ingenue, Matthew Schneck's relentlessly inarticulate romantic lead, and a vivid Andrea Cirie as the source on all the latest gossip.

Stealing scenes, to no one's surprise: Ray Dooley's ancient, incorrigible boozehound and Kelsey Didion's hilariously heartbroken stage manager. At times they, and we, get lost in Frayn's backstage-front maze of a script, but you may be laughing too much to notice. Noises Off is little more than stock characters and clockwork, but it's diverting nonetheless.

This article appeared in print with the headline "Casting calls."

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