by Michael Frayn
|Directed by Bernie Schuneman||
In theater parlance, "noises off" refers to offstage sound effects. In this case, the noises off are the backstage yelps and battle cries of the actors who are entangled in a sex farce of their own. Playwright Michael Frayn gives us three separate glimpses of the company and their cheesy comedy.
In Act One, the cast and crew stumble through a catastrophic final rehearsal of the first act of "Nothing On" as the clock passes midnight. Hampered by wayward plates of sardines, broken doors, a lost contact lens and their general lack of talent, they lamely carry on for their caustic director.
The silly plot seems to involve a daffy maid in an English country house, where one couple plans an illicit affair, another couple hides from the tax collector, and a drunken burglar and an Arab sheik complicate the action. Of course, the requisite slamming doors and dropping trousers are in abundance. At intervals in the botched rehearsal, the audience gets a glimpse of the actors' own quirky personalities and company romances.
Act Two of NOISES OFF takes the madness one step further. The audience once again watches Act One of "Nothing On," but from backstage. The entire set revolves 180 degrees, exposing prop tables and technical equipment.
A month has passed on tour and tempers are flaring. Smitten lovers would now like to kill each other, but "the show must go on." The actors try to keep up appearances onstage for their matinee audience, but backstage it's a pantomime of choreographed chaos in the fine tradition of the Marx Brothers. A fire axe, a cactus plant, whiskey bottles and malicious practical jokes bring the company, literally, to their knees.
Act Three is almost two months later, and we see Act One of "Nothing On" from the front again. By now the actors are in open warfare and the stage is their battlefield where they rewrite dialogue, sabotage fellow actors and destroy props. As the pandemonium increases, so do the laughs.
The idea for NOISES OFF occurred to Michael Frayn (who is well-known in England for his farces and satirical comedies) one night as he stood in the wings of a London theater watching a performance of a farce he had written for Lynn Redgrave. "It was funnier from behind than in front." He decided to write a farce that depicted the backstage exploits during a performance.
Movie audiences may remember Peter Bogdanovich's film version of NOISES OFF, which starred Carol Burnett, Michael Caine, John Ritter, and Christopher Reeve and Americanized the locations and most of characters.
D'Ann Hamilton * David Booth * Josh Smith * Krissy Clark * Geoffrey Kouse-Safford * Darlene Hillman * Steve Challgren * Bob Cain * Greg Anderson(understudy)