"Noises Off," a slapstick British comedy that has won rave reviews in London, continues to delight local audiences at Petrucci's Dinner Theatre, where the cast performs the show with apparently effortless flair.

Petrucci's, in the heart of Laurel, is a former vaudeville theater reminiscent of another era. High ceilings dotted with fans frame the spacious, airy room.

"Noises Off" presents a play within a play that is a testament to the phrase "the show must go on." It illustrates an actor's drive to present a story in the face of behind-the-scenes emotional problems gnawing at the character's ability to perform his role.

The action-packed play must be perfectly timed to convey the humor effectively. The cast is equal to this task.

In the first scene of "Noises Off," the cast is in final rehearsal for the subdrama "Nothing On." The odd group of "Nothing On" characters portrays roles similar to their alleged real-life personalities.

The second scene of "Noises Off" cleverly reveals the backstage blunders of the subdrama with a slick set.

However, in the third scene of "Noises Off," the characters are no longer able to prevent their backstage difficulties from creeping into their onstage performance.

The cast works well as an ensemble, blending to create a crazy mix of personalities. Among the most memorable performances is Lisette Le Compte as the particularly adorable, bubble-headed Brooke Ashton. Ashton is as dizzy onstage as off, unaware most of the time of the action around her.

The "Nothing On" director (Michael Lewis), who is having affairs with Brooke and with a stagehand, has an excellent baritone voice, brilliantly delivering lines that indicate his reservations about the cast's ability to present the subdrama successfully.

Susan McCormack-Pike is hilarious as a spunky British maid, Dotty, who offstage is romancing a younger cast member, Garry Lejeune (Andrew Clemence). When Garry suspects Dotty of shifting her affections to another cast member, the two engage in backstage warfare, and the actors, in some of the play's funniest moments, must prevent the two from killing each other.

The final act of the production is by far the evening's best performance. Full of constant action, backstage lovers' spats, onstage injuries, drunken cast members and forgotten lines, the scene is a director's nightmare, but also the perfect portrayal of true comedy. Belinda Blair (Leticia Copeland) is particularly amusing as the intermediary constantly trying to avert catastrophe.

The actors in "Noises Off" had the benefit of playwright Michael Frayn's clever script. But the challenge of the play lies in an ensemble that can convey chaos with ease.

"Noises Off" plays at Petrucci's Dinner Theatre through Jan. 3.