(Above left to right: Autumn Carter plays characters Vicki and Brooke, with Phil Dempsey as Roger and Garry and Kory Weimer as Phili and Frederick as the cast cavorts on the two-story stage of “Noises Off” at the Cottage Theatre; photos by Matt Emrich)

By Randi Bjornstad

The good news: If you’ve never seen “Noises Off,” a zany farce where action is nonstop and timing is everything, the Cottage Theatre has a treat for you with its production that runs Feb. 2 to 18.

The bad news: It’s already so popular that there aren’t many seats left, so if you want to see it, you may have to be as speedy and nimble as the actors who zip in and out of rooms and up and down the stairs of the two-story stage set.

As with most farces, the plot matters less than the cleverness of the repartée and the dozens of close encounters and near misses as the players go through the paces of conducting or being suspected of conducting love triangles, rivalries and jealousies of one kind or another, both onstage and behind the scenes.

The play came into being in England in 1982, written by playwright Michael Frayn. The New York Post called it “the funniest farce ever written,” and its a play within a play, about a group of actors putting on a play called “Nothing’s On.”

The cast of “Noises Off” includes: (front row, left to right) Autumn Carter, Ward Fairbairn and Melissa Miller; and (back row, left to right) Kory Weimer, Phil Dempsey, Mark Allen, Sophie Blades, Nikke Pagniano and Josh Carlton

After its stunningly successful debut in the United Kingdom, “Noises Off” played to delighted houses on Broadway in 1984, 2002 and 2016. It also captivated audiences at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2002 and more recently, a year ago, at the Oregon Cabaret Theatre, also in Ashland.

One of the greatest parts about “Noises Off” is the way it tells — and shows — the story variously from the vantage point of the audience and from backstage looking out. The story goes that Frayn was in the wings one night in 1970, watching a comedy he had created for actress Lynn Redgrave, called “The Two of Us,” when he realized that what he was seeing behind stage was every bit as funny — or maybe funnier — than what was seen from the audience’s point of view.

That, of course, gave him the idea of writing a play that was hilarious from both directions.

The Cottage Theatre version is designed and directed by Tony Rust. The cast includes Nikki Pagniano, Phil Dempsey, Autumn Carter, Kory Weimer, Sophie Blades, Mark Allen, Josh Carlton, Melissa Miller, and Ward Fairbairn.

Bil Morrill is stage manager. The crew includes costume design by Rhonda Turnquist, Chris Carter and Autumn Carter; set design by FeO2; props by Heidi Turnquist, Rhonda Turnquist and Bil Morrill; light design by Amanda Ferguson; sound design by Tim Singer and Tony Rust; light and sound operation by Kristina Deschaine. The stage crew includes Bill Dowell, Amber Hagen, Mackenzie NesSmith, Richard Reaksecker, Marisela Taylor and Mark VanBeever. Matt Emrich and Emily Bly provide photography.

“Noises Off” ushers in the Cottage Theatre’s 2018 season, which includes three plays and three musicals, including “Legally Blonde” in April, “The Crucible” in June, the world premiere of “Treehouse” in August, “Shrek the Musical” in October and “The Fantasticks” in November-December.

Noises Off

When: 8 p.m. on Feb. 2-3, 8-10 and 15-17; and 2:30 p.m. on Feb. 4, 11 and 18

Where: Cottage Theatre, 700 Village Drive, Cottage Grove

Tickets: $25 for adults, $15 for youths 18 years and younger, available at the box office, 541-942-8001, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, or online at cottagetheatre.org/