|Noises Off at Delaware Theatre Company.
Photo by Matt Urban.
Each of the three acts of Noises Off contains a performance of the first act of a fictional sex farce (Nothing On), which is ridiculous in its premise. The audience experiences insider viewings of this “play within a play” at three distinct times: Act I is a technical rehearsal; Act II is during a matinée one month into the run; and Act III happens near the end of the production tour.
The ability to experience the front and the back of things is due to the brilliant work of Colin McIlvaine. His wonderful set demonstrates why he is a Barrymore-nominated scenic designer. The bilevel, multi-door set works (and “doesn’t work”) in clever ways, including rotating 180 degrees so the audience catches the action behind the (stage) action.
In Act I, Nothing On actors Belinda (Karen Peakes), Brooke (Elise Hudson), Dotty (Grace Gonglewski), Freddie (Ian Merrill Peakes), Garry (Justin Jain), and Selsdon (Anthony Lawton) cannot seem to follow cues, remember lines, or hit their marks during a tech rehearsal from Hell which makes director Lloyd (David Bardeen) more fraught by the moment. Bardeen is wonderful in slowly swallowing his building rage and providing notes to his troupe as they flub scene after scene. Assistant Stage Manager Poppy (Bi Jean Ngo) must obediently clean up the messes and do Lloyd’s bidding to keep things rolling. The overworked Stage Manager Tim (Brenson Thomas) does everything from fixing sets to running surreptitious errands to making PA announcements to performing understudy duties.
All the characters have their personality flaws up front for all to see — on stage and backstage. Garry can’t state anything definitively; Freddie falls to pieces when things get hairy; Brooke sticks to the script too closely; and Selsdon is a hard-of-hearing alcoholic with a penchant for forgetting his closing line. Speaking of mangling dialog, Dotty’s character changes a somewhat standard line so badly over the course of the show, it ends up as: “It’s good I can’t see far with this leg.”
Most theater productions have their share of infighting and clandestine romances. Acts II and III reveal souring relationships between the Nothing On cast plus the set and props failing. In Act II, the audience sees how the fallout of numerous romances and off-stage problems affect the action on both sides of the stage.
The show is somewhat dated, but still timeless in its cleverness and originality. The dialog is tight and the physical comedy will draw plenty of chuckles. Who knew that looking for a lost contact lens could bring down the house? Sometimes things get a little confusing, but stick with it and it’ll start to clear up. Come to DTC for a hearty laugh at the theater and maybe score a plate of sardines!
The performance schedule of Noises Off is Wednesdays (2:00pm), Thursdays (7:00pm), Fridays (8:00pm), Saturdays (2:00 & 8:00PM except September 23 for Opening Night – 8:00pm only), and Sundays (2:00pm) through October 8.