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Review: 'Noises Off' smartly revels in slapstick and satire

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There are misbegotten plays so bad they’re good, and satire so good it’s great, but you rarely get both in the same show. Thanks to its intricate farce-within-a-farce construction, Michael Frayn’s “Noises Off” efficiently packs a fair number of two-for-one laughs in an appropriately frenetic revival from Ventura’s Rubicon Theatre.

Slamming doors (11 of them) and double entendres abound as the backstage romantic entanglements of a hapless theater troupe collide with the bedroom antics of a dreadful sex comedy they’re attempting to perform.

Director Kenneth Albers deftly choreographs the intersections between the two realities, particularly in the dizzying second act depicting a performance as seen from behind the stage (the reverse perspective enabled by Thomas Giamario’s rotating two-story set).

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Precision timing distinguishes the resulting mutually assured destruction, as seething hostilities among the cast and crew of the ill-fated "Nothing On" wreak simultaneous havoc on their performances and their careers.

Unencumbered by extraneous cerebral ballast, Frayn’s romp revels in slapstick and stereotype, both capably executed by a nine-member ensemble in which no particular performances outshine the others — this is equal opportunity satire for anyone who’s ever wondered whether what takes place behind the scenes can be more fun than what happens onstage.

“Noises Off,” Rubicon Theatre, 1006 E. Main St., Ventura. 2 and 7 p.m. Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Ends February 23. $25-$49. (805) 667-2900 or www.rubicontheatre.org. Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes.

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