I have been an actor for over twenty years now and I always say that the drama backstage is so much more entertaining than the drama on onstage. Many have tried to capture this but few have succeeded as much as Michael Frayn with his 1982 play, “Noises Off.” This show has been a big hit since and it was even adapted as a film starring Christopher Reeve, Michael Caine and Carol Burnett.
“Noises Off” is a play-within-a-play. We, the audience, are actually watching rehearsals and performances of the play “Nothing On,” directed by Mr. Lloyd Dallas. Frayn gives us all of the usual suspects and as anyone in theater knows, these characters do, in fact, exist in real life, though you may not always find them in the same production as is the case here. Frayn also takes us backstage – literally – in Act 2. Director Dori Bryan-Ployer has done an exceptional job casting her actors, all of whom take on their roles like a second skin. Speaking of the group she cast out of the numbers that showed up to audition, Dori says, “The whole group is very unified. I think that shows onstage.”
Beth Morrell plays Dotty (whose character is playing Mrs. Clackett). Dotty is the top billed star and a major investor in this show and though a veteran actor, has trouble memorizing. Beth does this so naturally that I forgot I was watching her in a play in a play! I kid you not. Beth says this is the second time she has played Dotty/Mrs. Clackett. “Noises Off is truly one of the funniest shows I’ve ever been involved in. It is an ensemble show that requires a great team of actors and technical staff. This MMAS production is one that I am very proud to be a part of.”
Christian Roulleau plays Lloyd Dallas, the frustrated, philandering director. Christian does an amazing job making this character somewhat likeable, even though he is obviously not the greatest guy.
Chris March plays Garry (whose character is playing Roger). The lead of the show, although he cannot quite finish a sentence unless it is written dialogue he can memorize. Chris’ performance is effortless which is not an easy task with this character. Chris says that after watching the film years ago he knew he had to do it. “…it was during the Act 2 sequence in the film because it was just like, ‘Oh this is brilliant!’ because the whole joke is that all this craziness is going on backstage but they’re still making their cues, I mean, for the most part…and to pull that off onstage, that would be brilliant. I would love to be part of that theatrical pit crew that just does it to the best of their ability…”
Sara Norton plays Brooke (whose character is playing Vicki), the ingénue, who got this job for reasons clearly not having anything to do with talent. It is not easy to play an actor who can’t act but Sara nails it with her delivery of each line accompanied by her over-emphasised indications.
Kacee Rimer plays Poppy, the overwhelmed assistant stage manager who gets a bit emotional though with good reason. Kacee’s performance is subtle yet very real.
Michael Herschberg plays Frederick (whose character is playing Philip). Not the brightest bulb and never too sure of himself, constantly asking Lloyd for the motivation of his character behind even the smallest bit of business. According to Dori, Herschberg loves doing physical comedy and I can see why. He is very good at it. It is hard to take your eyes off of him even when he isn’t speaking because his physicality and expressions are so entertaining.
Jackie Fashjian plays Belinda (whose character is playing Flavia). Jackie is delightfully natural as the “Mom” of the group who looks after everyone and is especially protective of Frederick.
Mike Whalen plays Tim, the overworked, exhausted, and abused stage manager/set builder (among other things). Whalen pops in and out, stealing scenes with every entrance.
Justin Grankewicz plays Selsdon (whose character is playing a Burglar), a likeable old drunk who is practically deaf. Justin does a wonderfully unpredictable job as Selsdon, playing against type here as the character is written for a much older actor and I am told by Chris that he is actually the youngest in the cast!
“Noises Off” is not an easy show to do. It is very physical and very demanding with of all of the running around, up and down, in and outs, of doors, windows, stairs, acting like you can’t act or remember or deliver dialogue, etc., and timing is also crucial. Being an actor, and having to play an actor playing a role is not as easy as it sounds and this cast does this so seamlessly, there were times that I got confused as to whether I was watching the play-within-the-play (“Nothing On”) or, the cast of “Noise Off” rehearsing! This is the second time Dori has directed this show and she says what helps is to have actors who have a strong work ethic like these actors, “Not only are they talented, they are super-duper committed. I remember one night I said to them – the set being turned around was kind of an issue. We didn’t always have the people to turn the set around – so, on the night that we were going to do an Act 2 run, we didn’t have anybody to turn the set around so, I said to the cast, ‘Because we’re not going to have the set, I can give you guys the night off,’ and they said, ‘No, we’d like to come in,’ and we ended up doing it upstairs .”
Ted Talanian was the Set Designer and did a wonderful job creating the “Noises Off” reality. Very well done and realistic. The way he handled the set changes between acts is very creative. I’m going to leave that as a surprise for you.
The costumes were also great, adding a splash of a color to add to the colorful life of the characters.
All in all, “Noises Off” was a very enjoyable, hilarious comedy with the perfect pairing of actors. I highly recommend it.
“Noises Off” is the first performance in MMAS’ new space and performs for two more weekends on March 13, 14, 15, 20, 21 and 22 at 888 South Main Street Theater, Mansfield, MA. (Please note the new address). For more information and tickets you can visit https://mmas.org/.