"NOISES OFF," through May 24, Grand Theatre, 1575 S. State, $24, running time 2 hours 15 minutes with two 10-minute intermissions (801-957-3322 or the-grand.org)
SALT LAKE CITY — It appears that this show-within-a-show is getting off to a slow and stiff start as the actors prepping for the opening night of "Nothing On" keep stopping and starting over.
They're tired and edgy, and they've worn thin the patience of their director, played by David Marsden.
Plates of sardines come on and off. A telephone cord gets tangled and wound around the maid. Everyone is running in and out of the house, pairing up and worrying that the house drunk will arrive tipsy for his part once again.
It's a tricky scene because they are supposed to look like they're not ready — and they do. But they get into the swing of things and the pace picks up as the set turns about and the backstage becomes the focal point.
Things become complicated and layered as the show moves on in the background and the things that can go wrong in a theatrical production do.
It's a credit to the director and cast that they pull this off. It's funny, unpredictable and real.
Everyone gets his or her moment to shine. Doug Vandegrift is effective and vulnerable as Selsdon Mowbray, who plays the burglar who keeps coming through the window at the wrong time. (It's hilarious later on when multiple burglars show up.)
Lauren Rathbun is an appropriately ditzy Brooke/Vicki as she never breaks character and her character never gets a clue. She also consistently loses a contact lens, and the "dance" the rest of the cast does while they look for it is fun.
Maggie Goertzen as Belinda/Flavia tries valiantly to maintain order in a chaotic situation, and Sallie Cooper as Dotty/Mrs. Clackett simply gives up when it gets to be too much.
Usually with his trousers down around his feet, Freddy, played by Jared Evans, tries to be a sheik and to put off the nosebleeds he gets when faced with violence or distress. He's funny when his hands become glued to sardines, tax forms and his pants.
Dan Beecher, playing Garry Lejeune, winds up until he's red in the face for his part.
The understudy for Selsdon, played by Dusty Heyrend, has a gift for comedy.
This production is confusing but funny, especially with the cast members going in and out of eight different doorways in all stages of panic.
Those who like this story will again appreciate the trials that come with performing the same story over and over again.
To enjoy the evening, one has to go to this show knowing that it's not going to make a lot of sense — and not expecting the curtain to actually go up in three minutes, two minutes or one minute.
Tickets cost $24 and are available at 801-957-3322 and the-grand.org.
Content advisory: There is some swearing and mild indecent exposure as one woman wanders around in her underwear and another loses her skirt.
Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with more than 35 years' experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.