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Monday, Feb. 23, 2009

British Sex Comedy

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In 1970, British playwright Michael Frayn was watching a production of a farce he had written about a dinner party in which two actors played all the roles. He was watching from the wings. Realizing that the comedy was funnier from this perspective, Frayn decided to write a farce set entirely backstage. Thus was born the 1982 classic Noises Off.

The play, which follows a series of actors backstage as they perform an awful sex comedy titled Nothing On, is being produced on two different stages in the Milwaukee area this season. Carte Blanche Studios' production opens Friday, Feb. 27. The day after it closes on March 8, Sunset Playhouse holds open auditions for its production in Elm Grove.

The show is being directed by Carte Blanche founder Jimmy Dragolovich, who opened Carte Blanche Studios on South Fifth Street in October. Though its size is on par with many of the smaller spaces in town, Carte Blanche's stage feels all the more tiny by virtue of having no real thrust to it. The small stage poses interesting challenges for a play with a cast of nine. If tackled properly, the comic speed and complexity of the relationships should be amplified by the actors' need to navigate the story through such a small space.

"It's a thrill to be putting up this mammoth show in such an intimate space-a worthwhile challenge for all involved," Dragolovich says. "It helps to be working with such a talented group of actors."

In addition to being talented, this group of actors is also very young. The characters in Noises Off range from 20 to 60 years of age. The Carte Blanche cast largely consists of actors in their 20s and 30s, which should make for a vibrant production. Fading stage diva Dotty Otley, for instance, is being played by 27-year-old Nicole Gorski.

Noises Off runs through March 8 at Carte Blanche Studios, 1024 S. Fifth St.