It’s the actor’s nightmare come to life and put on full display. Join a sub-sub-subpar acting troupe as they flail and flop their way through a rehearsal and a couple of performances of the farce, Nothing On, in Noises Off! currently playing at Lofte Community Theatre.
Michael Frayn’s farce within a farce has often been called the funniest play ever written. I find it hard to disagree with that statement as it has all the elements which make for great hilarity: slamming doors, breakneck pace, mistaken situations, and over the top characters. This play is also one of the most technically difficult plays ever written as most of the script’s pages are split in two (half dialogue/half stage directions) and its second act is mostly a silent film brought to life as it is sight gag placed upon sight gag with nary a bit of dialogue outside of the show in the show. In fact, the play’s lone weakness is that it fails to complete the story arcs of the “real” people that get set up during the story.
Kevin Colbert has a real flair for comedy. He truly understands bits and beats and his direction especially shines in the nearly silent second act when countless sight gags and moments battle for your attention. The jokes are executed with military precision and are so funny, even Buster Keaton would crack a smile. Colbert’s staging is right on the money as Act I feels like an exhausting late night tech rehearsal that we actors know so well while Act II gives a farcical, yet surprisingly truthful look at what actors do while waiting for their cues and Act III is the legendary actor’s nightmare where everything that can go wrong does. Colbert also has some nice meta moments such as showing a supposedly botched scene change when Act II segues into Act III and malfunctions such as actors being on the wrong side of the curtain when it closes. Colbert has also crafted sterling performances from his actors, creating well defined and unique characters.
This play is an ensemble in the truest sense of the word. There is no leading role. The weight of this show is evenly distributed on the shoulders of each cast member who all get moments in the spotlight as their personal relationships shift and fray resulting in the riotous dismantling of their performances.
This review would form a novella if I waxed poetic on every cast member, but golden performances are given by one and all. Nathan Wilson is a riot as the put upon set designer/understudy/gofer who is always either a half step behind or ahead of the others depending on the crisis. Adam Kovar is a master of physical comedy as the hot-tempered Garry Lejeune with falls so believable I actually thought he had hurt himself on a few occasions. Anne Pope is a steady hand as the troupe’s most level headed performer, Belinda Blair, who is overly optimistic and a bit of a gossip. Alyssa Rosecrans is hysterical as the stupider than a brick, Brooke Ashton, who constantly loses her contact lenses, meditates and practices yoga when stressed out, and obliviously continues with her role despite it not making sense as things fall apart around her. Deanna Walz is hilarious as the actor/producer who can never remember her stage actions and lights the fire that is Act II with her relationship troubles with Garry. Natalie McGovern is wonderful as the stage manager/understudy, Poppy, whose sweetness is matched only by her poor acting.
I was particularly taken in by Jon Kruse’s interpretation of Selsdon Mowbray. Kruse underplays the role beautifully and I envision his Selsdon as a once capable actor who has been betrayed by age and his addiction to the bottle. Kruse is very convincing as the nearly deaf thespian who can’t remember his lines and can’t recite them properly when prompted and never met a bottle of booze he didn’t like.
Mick Kovar spins some theatrical gossamer with his take on Frederick Fellowes. Kovar’s Fellowes is a likable guy, but, man, he can also get on your nerves in a hurry as his obtuseness about motivations and plot prevent him from simply acting. Kovar is a hoot as the hapless sad sack who spontaneously bleeds from the nose when violence occurs or at the sight of blood. He is an impressive physical comic in his own right as he gets tangled in sheets and waddles around with his pants around his ankles.
Somewhere I imagine Kermit the Frog is pointing at Lloyd Dallas and laughing his head off as he handles his Muppets far better than Dallas manages his. Neal Herring gives his Dallas a certain air of superiority because he seems more concerned with directing Richard III than he does about getting Nothing On off the ground. He’s also a bit of a cad as he sleeps with a couple members of the cast and crew. However, he’s also a shrewd master of diplomacy as he knows how to navigate the relationships and shortcomings of his actors even if the massive stress of doing so causes him to force a grin so tense I thought his teeth would shatter.
Kevin Colbert and Don Larew at Scenographics team up to design the massive great room of a mansion with a circular couch at the center and 8 doors and a set of windows suitable for slamming and frenetic entrances and exits. Tim Sorenson’s sounds enhance the comedy especially with the delayed window breaking cues of the third act when too many actors try to play the same part. Janet Sorenson’s costumes are realistic and natural.
Act I could have used a snappier pace, but I believe it was slowed by a quieter audience not giving the cast the needed fuel. But once the pantomime started in Act II. . .whoa Nellie!!! The cast just poured gasoline on the fire and their energy and animation would have lit Las Vegas and it didn’t wane until the final curtain fell.
There’s no depth to this show. It’s just an unbridled, free for all of fun. A viewing of this show will take care of your ab exercises for a week, so get a ticket and ready yourself to howl yourself hoarse.
Noises Off! runs at Lofte Community Theatre through October 30. Showtimes are Thurs-Sat at 7pm and Sundays at 2pm. Tickets cost $24 and can be purchased at www.lofte.org or by calling the box office at 402-234-2553. Lofte Community Theatre is located at 15841 Manley Road in Manley, NE.