BWW Review: NOISES OFF! Brings Laughs And Door Slamming to Centre Stage
When you go to Centre Stage to see their new production of the classic farce, Noises Off, make sure you get there early.
First, take a close look at the program. The opening pages present the credits for "The Shawnee Players" production of a play titled "Nothing On," with cast list and bios immediately following. It's fun to read and also serves to set up the evening's entertainment, for Noises Off is a play within a play. Playwright Michael Frayn structures it as three glimpses into the production of a fictional play, Nothing On: the calamitous dress rehearsal, the backstage antics that occur one month into their tour, and the final performance some 12 weeks later.
Once you're familiar with the players, I encourage you to study the set - a lumbering, door-filled edifice that looks just a tiny bit slapdash and rickety, i.e., exactly what a second-tier touring company might put together. It's also perfectly composed for the evening's shenanigans, with stairs, windows, and doors - so many doors - ready to be tumbled-down, fallen-through, and slammed with hilarious gusto.
For this is, indeed, a farce, which means characters popping in and out of entryways with split-second timing, items of clothing falling off or falling down, and otherwise sane adults appearing utterly insane. And the Centre Stage cast is certainly game for it all.
Each of the actors get ample chances to let their talents loose, creating some wonderfully memorable moments that may not make sense when you read them in a list but will resonate and make you smile once you've seen the play. Amy Dunlap's search for sardines. Sara Tolson's wide-eyed innocence. Daniel Marlatt's hapless "you know." Trevor Furlong's simple inability to know what's going on. Jonathan Kilpatrick's pants. Caroline Davis' lack of pants. Ben Nicholas' microphone voice. Kerry Seymour's "acting." Kevin Treu's frantically flailing hands as his exasperation grows. It's a marvelous, energetic cast.
The production makes exceptionally good use of the space. The set is towering and impressive, and it's fun to watch the crew flip the whole thing during intermission, so that we see "backstage" for act two. In fact, the crew is to be commended for helping keep props and costume pieces and who knows what else ready to go. This is a show all about timing, and everything here snaps. The lights, too, help paint the scene by giving us visual cues as to when we're watching the "play" within the play and when we're watching the rehearsal - in fact, light/sound operator Whitney Arter is the show's unseen MVP. The actors also do an excellent job bridging this gap, jumping between being "actors" in a "play" and being actors putting on a play. It's a little hard to describe but it's abundantly clear in execution.
The Audience (i) saw it with often exploded with laughter. In fact, the fellow sitting next to me literally elbowed his wife at a particularly amusing moment and at another moment practically doubled over guffawing. Your mileage may vary, of course - after all, farces aren't for everyone. But I'd say they're for most people, and if you want to see a good one, head directly to Centre Stage. They'll happily open the door for you. And maybe they'll even let you slam it.