Over the past two weekends, WCU’s Performing Arts Center has been showcasing the production of “Noises Off” – a highly comical and delightfully entertaining creation from Michael Frayn. Directed by Leonard Kelly, “Noises Off” was shown in the Madeleine Wing Adler Theatre from March 28-30 and April 3-6, with 8 p.m. showings Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m. performances Saturday and Sunday.
The cast and crew rehearsed approximately 20 hours the week of the opening show alone in order to fine-tune lines, moves and set changes.
The enormous set, which is designed as the interior of a house on one side, and the backstage of a theater on the other, is rotated twice throughout the performance.
The first act is seen from an audience’s perspective looking into a living room setup, where the characters of “Noises Off” are seen going through the first act of their upcoming show, “Nothing On.”
It becomes clear throughout this act that “Noises Off” depends highly on the choreography and timing of the actors. The entire performance of “Nothing On” is based around the idea that a couple who is meant to be out of the country has returned for their anniversary, while another couple has decided to make use of the house for their own purposes.
The two couples are constantly going in and out of doors, moving bags, boxes, and other various props.
The housekeeper, Mrs. Clackett/Dotty (played by Jackie Read), is constantly fetching plates of sardines, as the ones she is preparing keep disappearing amongst the other characters. The cast is even joined by a burglar (Selsdon, played by Connor McAndrews), who continues to add to the mayhem.
Each entrance and exit has to be perfectly executed so that the opposing parties never see each other onstage until the correct place in the script.
Throughout the rehearsal there are several “stops” in the acting as requested by the Director Lloyd Dallas (Alexander McCausland). In the banter exchanged during these pauses, we are introduced to the characters and their relationships with one another, along with the fact that their opening performance is to be held within a few hours. The actors of “Noises Off” do a superb job in portraying their characters, giving each a strong sense of identity.
Each actor of “Nothing On” has a definitive characteristic or phrase that helps identify them in later acts – such as Freddie’s (Galen Detweiler) nosebleeds at the sight of violence or Gary Lejeune’s (Trick Sullivan) insistence of “.well, do you know what I mean?”
As the performance continues in the second act, the actors are again going through the first act of “Nothing On,” but they are now on tour. Along the way it becomes clear that there are problems between a few of the members of the cast.
The audience views the second act of “Noises Off” from backstage, and as the drama unravels among the cast, the production becomes more and more jumbled, with late cues, missing or misplaced props, and changed lines.
One character, Belinda Blair (played by Marion Foy), is seen trying to keep everything running smoothly, in spite of the determination of the actors to seek revenge upon other cast members.
All of the mishaps are carried out in a way that is quite entertaining to the viewer, though most of the reasons for the holdups are really not laughing matters.
In the second intermission, Selsdon wanders onstage with a bottle of alcohol of some sort, and the stagehand, Poppy (Clara Hittel), beckons him back off-stage. The stage manager, Tim (Patrick Kane) introduces the final showing of “Nothing On”, but is then distracted by the bottle Selsdon left onstage.
The final act is again, the first act of “Nothing On,” only this time we again see into the living room set, and it is the final performance on the tour.
Clearly the drama has gotten worse throughout the touring process, as cues and lines are even more jumbled than in the second act. Hilarity ensues, such as when actress Brooke Ashton (Laura Giknis) is set upon continuing as normal, as seen with her exclamation of “no bag!” while clearly pointing at a bag that hasn’t been moved in time for her line.
The actors continue stumbling, some literally, some metaphorically, through the act. Finally the cast pulls together, using their improvisational skills to save the show. As for the ending, well – doors and sardines, bags and boxes, everyone!
Tara Tanzos is a first-year student majoring in secondary English education. She can be reached at TT649875@wcupa.edu.