ODGEN — Noises Off!, written in 1982 by Michael Frayn, is arguably the modern theatrical standard for farce. It is mounted with regularity by theaters around the world. It is an enduring script that audiences are willing to show up for, because it delivers on laughs. Beverly’s Terrace Plaza Playhouse’s production of Noises Off! was like a glorious train wreck: a little slow to get started but gained momentum throughout and ended with a huge bang, making for a great night out.
At the start of the show, the actress playing the maid with a cockney accent (Melissa Trenery as Dotty Otley) has to keep track of a handful of props—sardines, a newspaper, the telly (television), and the phone—but as she mutters in her confusion, it is clear right away that this beginning is a play within a play. Each of the actors on the stage is playing an actor in a (fairly inept) theatre troupe as they are preparing for their touring farce Nothing On. The director of the troupe, Lloyd Dallas (played excellently by Jed Broberg), is trying to get all his actors through the final dress rehearsal before their show opens in a few hours.
The play is broken into three acts because of the huge scene shift that happens in the middle act. Act One introduces the audience to the first act of the bedroom farce, Nothing On, and shows what is supposed to happen on stage. The most important element in any good farce is timing, and in the first act of the Noises Off!, it was not quite on. The pace dragged a bit as the cast tried to establish who their characters were while also trying to show an additional layer of that character portraying a character. I found Steve Petersen’s portrayal of Garry Lejeune effective in this feat. Garry is the suave leading man in the play who struggles to complete a thought that isn’t scripted. Petersen’s stammering and gesturing were very funny and well done.
The character Belinda Blair started off a little weak, as played by Erin Trump, but ends up strong. Part of my disconnect with Trump’s initial portrayal of Belinda was the choice to not do an English dialect. In most scripts it wouldn’t matter, but a character who is constantly using British terms of endearment like “love” and “darling” sound a little strange to my ears without the dialect. However, by Act Three Trump had won me over with a great command of physical comedy as she darted about trying to save the play.
Act Two, which takes place about a month into the tour, is set up during a dramatic scene change that whisks the audience backstage to watch what is happening behind the scenes. This act is when the play really gathered steam and took off. The set designed by W. Derek Hendricks impressively folds in and revolves around to reveal the backstage drama behind Nothing On and a troupe coming apart at the seams. Co-directors W. Derek Hendricks and Breanne Hendricks have the pacing of Act Two perfect as the character fights get more and more extreme and hilarious. The props designed by Olyvia Winter are especially important to the show, because the audience is keenly aware that props should be coming and going constantly, which is what adds to the absurdity.
Commendable performances are also given by Tyler Bell as Tim Allgood the stage manager, MaKell Knight as the ditzy Brooke Ashton, and Spencer Stevens as the foppish Frederick Fellowes. Justin “Spot” Beecher excellently plays Selsdon Mowbray, an elderly recovering/relapsing alcoholic, in a ridiculously exaggerated—but highly amusing—fashion.
For the final act, it is known what should be happening in Nothing On, which makes all the gags and jokes crash together in a beautiful train wreck for the play-within-the-play that left me in stitches. Watching people slipping on sardines like banana peels and falling down stairs is always funny, and the cast nails the timing on these slapstick moments.
This production is a fairly family-friendly play. It does contain a character who is in a nightie most of the time, as well as some suggestive humor, but overall it is just plain fun and can be enjoyed by all ages. Noises Off! is an excellent production by the community theatre at Beverly’s Terrace Plaza Playhouse, and I recommend it to all for a great night out.