“Noises Off” presents the chaotic production process behind live theater

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By Mohan Xu
Staff writer
@XuMohan1

More than 100 people flocked to The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center’s Kay Theater at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 23, to see what took place on (and behind) the stage in the show “Noises Off.”

“Not only is Noises Off a true, contemporary, belly-laugh comedy (something we could all use right now in the middle of frigid February), but it is a show that offers enormous growth opportunity for performers,” director Lisa Nathans wrote in the director’s notes of the playbill.

“Noises Off” was written by Michael Frayn and directed by Nathans. The play is about a group of actors performing the show “Nothing On,” which is an English bedroom farce. The play, which lasted approximately two hours and 45 minutes, with two 15-minute intermissions, consisted of three acts.

“Noises Off” presented a funny look at the behind-the-scenes chaos of putting on a show. Mohan Xu/Mitzpeh.

Act One opened with the final dress rehearsal for “Nothing On” in the Grand Theatre. Lloyd, the director, and the actors all faced problems. For example, Dotty Otley (played by Ebie Prideaux) always forgot when to take her plate of sardines onstage. Brooke Ashton (played by Chloé Costello) always lost her contact lenses.

“In the beginning, they were not formally acting in front of the audience, but they were still, like, acting within the audience while everyone was getting seated,” senior biology major Thanuri Navarathna said.

The second act took place backstage during an actual performance of “Nothing On” about one month into the group’s tour and gave audiences a different point of view. Since it was about what goes on backstage during a show, the actors for the most part did not speak any dialogue (audiences still could hear their performance), but used gestures to act out the scene.

“I liked that they had the same set but they flipped it around, so that you could have a different setting and see the other side of the entire play,” Navarathna said.

The third act showed a performance of “Nothing On” near the end of the group’s tour, at which point the characters’ relationships had deteriorated drastically.

“I loved the play within a play and I did not expect that at all, and it was funny,” Navarathna said,

During the play, the audience applauded and laughed several times. The play brought the audience into the chaotic production process.

At the same time, “we dove into in-depth character choices, both physical and sub-textual, the ability to concentrate in chaos, the ability to perform in dialect,” Nathans wrote in the director’s notes of the playbill.

All of the actors in “Noises Off” were students at this university. For the Sunday performance, Lloyd, the director of “Nothing On,” was performed by Kyle Starling. Garry was performed by Ben Fish, Frederick was performed by Ben Panah, Belinda was performed by Ariana Caldwell, Selsdon was performed by Sam Intrater, Poppy was performed by Jamie Bokman, Tim was performed by Philippos Sourvinos and Electrician Erin was performed by Taylor Stokes.

“I had never seen it [“Noises Off”] before and it was good, especially the design elements,” a visiting potential graduate student Josie Everett said.

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