BWW Review: NOISES OFF at Theatre Harrisburg
Noises Off first took to the stage in 1982 at the Lyric Theatre in London, and in 1983 found its way to Broadway. Written by Michael Frayn, this comedy revolves around the cast and crew of a play called Nothing On. As a play within a play, it gives audiences an entertaining look into the life of the theatre. As director David Zayas comments in his Director's Notes, "it's a comedy about relationships, about a community being thrown together atop a crumbling foundation of clashing personalities, conflicts of interest, and unfulfilled promises." This madcap comedy opened at Theatre Harrisburg's Krevsky Center on September 6th and will run through September 22nd.
Under the brilliant direction of David Zayas, Theatre Harrisburg's production of Noises Off keeps the audience laughing from start to finish. Even the intermissions between the three acts are a sight to behold thanks to Curtis Mittong and his crew-to find out why, you will just have to see it for yourself. Every aspect of this production is well-designed and intentional, from the gorgeous set to the lights and sound to the costumes (including three identical burglar costumes) to the multitude of props (I've never seen so many sardines in one place). The entire production crew and many volunteers who help behind the scenes deserve a round of applause and a nice plate of sardines.
Noises Off is a difficult play to write about without giving away too much other than to say it's all about doors and sardines. It really is a play you have to see to believe. The cast at Theatre Harrisburg is tremendous. Noises Off depends on spot-on comedic timing, physical comedy that looks effortless, and the cast's ability to convey an idea through body language alone. Theater Harrisburg's cast delivers all of this and more.
David Richwine's performance as Lloyd Dallas, the exhausted, beleaguered director of Nothing's On, is inspired. Anyone who has directed live theatre will naturally commiserate with Richwine's character as he deals with forgotten lines, actors looking for their character's motivation, and the drama of backstage relationships. Richwine has the ability to use his facial expressions, posture, gait, and pauses to convey his character's emotion in such a way that every time he steps on stage the audience is drawn in and can sense his character's mood and intention.
Lloyd Dallas's Assistant Stage Manager, Poppy, is portrayed by Shanon McBride. Poppy is only seen a few times during the first act-typically whenever something is going wrong with the rehearsal-and in those scenes McBride ably conveys the idea that a good Stage Manager is one who works so well behind the scenes to ensure a smooth production that no one even knows they are there. McBride particularly shines in act two when we learn that Poppy has become embroiled in the various dramas taking place backstage. Poppy spends part of her time in act two on stage observing the mayhem without always being directly involved in the action and yet McBride is always in character, showing the audience what is going on in Poppy's head through expressions and gestures.
Poppy's partner in backstage work is Tim Allgood, the Company Stage Manager. This character is brilliantly played by Garrett Knisley. Knisley is an extraordinarily versatile actor, which is a necessity in this role, as Allgood is not only the Company Stage Manager but also the understudy for all of the male actors. As the play progresses through its three acts, Knisley does a wonderful job of reminding the audience that they are seeing a new time and place in the life of the play Nothing On by showing us new aspects of his character in each act. Knisley's performance makes his character's interactions with the other characters feel authentic and believable-this is particularly highlighted in Tim's interactions with Poppy and Lloyd.
Then we have the actors of Nothing On, portrayed by KeriAn Cross, Matt Thomsen, Megan Thomas, Craig Copas-Maynor, Amy Rosenberry, and Nicholas Hughes. KeriAn Cross, who plays actress Dotty Otley (Mrs. Clackett in Nothing On) is delightful to watch on stage. Somehow she manages to play the role, which is one of the funniest because of its cluelessness, forgetfulness, and matter of fact dottiness, with a straight face. Cross makes it obvious to the audience that Dotty has no idea how humorous she is, which makes it even funnier. My favorite act for Cross is act three where her character has really unraveled, resulting in even funnier line mix ups, prop mishaps, and deviations from the plot of Nothing On. A relative newcomer to theatre, this is Cross's debut performance at Theatre Harrisburg, and I hope we will see her in many more shows.
Matt Thomsen and Megan Thomas take the stage as Garry Lejeune (Roger in Nothing On) and Brooke Ashton (Vicki in Nothing On). Thomsen is just what I imagine when I read the part of Garry/Roger. At first, he comes across as one of the least demanding and most professional of the actors of Nothing On. But we soon discover that Garry has a penchant for needing to get his thoughts and feelings off his chest, and he does so in a rather annoying way by never actually saying what he thinks or feels, assuming his fellow actors and the crew understand his inferences. Thomsen plays Garry/Roger as a confident man who likes to be heard.
Thomas has the challenge of playing the role of Brooke/Vicki. This is perhaps one of the more difficult roles to play simply because she always seems a little off from everyone else. Sometimes she stares into space for no apparent reason, sometimes she loses her contact lens (sometimes it's lost in her eye!), and sometimes she has to take a meditation break. Thomas does a wonderful job of switching between Brooke, with her often vacant expression, and Vicki, who is the coy tax worker of Nothing On. The most brilliant and funny part of Thomas's performance comes in act three when her character refuses to ad lib and tries to push on with the lines she's memorized no matter what else is going on around her.
Frederick (Freddie) (Philip in Nothing On) and Belinda (Flavia in Nothing On) are played by Craig Copas-Maynor and Amy Rosenberry. Copas-Maynor's Freddie is delightfully over-the-top and dramatic-a perfect representation of what people often think of when we think of an "actor"-and it fits the character of Freddie to a T. What really astounded me about Copas-Maynor's performance, though, is the physicality. Physical comedy is not easy, particularly with such a complex set and so many props, and the entire cast did a great job with the physical comedy in the play, but Copas-Maynor really takes it to the next level. Combine this with his expressive face, and you have the ideal recipe for a hilarious Freddie/Philip.
While everyone in the cast does an amazing job of differentiating between their Nothing On character and their character who is acting those roles, Amy Rosenberry does this particularly well. Her Belinda is an optimistic, cheerful woman who loves the theatre and the theatre company. She maintains this positivity all the way to act three where she singlehandedly tries to get Nothing On back on track. Rosenberry gives Flavia an air of wealth and sophistication that is a nice contrast to Vicki and Mrs. Clackett.
Finally, Nicholas Hughes rounds out the cast as Selsdon Mowbray (Burglar in Nothing On), an actor who is notorious for his drinking problems. Many of the issues plaguing the director and stage managers of Nothing On revolve around trying to make sure that Selsdon doesn't get his hands on any alcohol. Hughes is wonderful at subtly adjusting his expression and tone to illustrate his character's mood and intention. I found myself marveling at how difficult it must be for Hughes to intentionally miss entrances and cue lines and to act as though he doesn't remember a line as he plays the role of Selsdon/Burglar.
Noises Off is the perfect start to Theatre Harrisburg's 94th season. The cast and crew have done a superb job of coming together to bring this farce to life. The first two nights were sold out, so don't miss your opportunity to enjoy tremendous talent while laughing uproariously. Visit www.theatreharrisburg.com to get your tickets today!