Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Wetumpka Depot: "Noises Off"

The Wetumpka Depot Players have another hit on their hands. Director Kim Mason's tight acting ensemble brings the antics of Michael Frayn's farce Noises Off to a rousing laugh-fest in a show that has become an international staple in professional and community theatres since its 1982 debut in London.

As farces go, Noises Off is replete with fast action, slamming doors, sexual dalliances, trousers dropping, and silly props. Frayn complicates this by including a play-within-a-play as an inept theatre company rehearses and then presents an admittedly terrible play called Nothing On, and we view their frustrations with the demands of this convoluted script and their own personal lives reflected in the play they are performing.

Though not essential for general audience appreciation, theatre people might be especially tickled by the all-too-familiar challenges of rehearsing a farce: timing of entrances and exits, eccentricities of actors, timing, manipulation of props, timing, assorted responsibilities of stage managers, timing, the authority of the director, and -- oh, yes -- timing! -- All credit is due the Depot company for keeping the action moving and for excellence in timing the action both as it is rehearsed with mistakes that must be corrected and also in the corrected versions where we witness how it is supposed to be done.

The setting of Nothing On is an old English house that is available to rent while the owners are abroad in Spain; it is being looked after by the housekeeper, Mrs. Clackett, (played  by an actress named Dotty) [Kristy Meanor], whose phone conversations provide background while she attempts to handle the phone, newspapers, and ever-frustrating plates of sardines. When Roger (actor Garry) [Lee Bridges] brings Vicki (actress Brooke) [Sophia Priolo] to the house for an affair while pretending to be a client to rent the house, and is interrupted by the unexpected return of the owners Phillip (actor Frederick) and Flavia (actress Belinda), hilarity ensues. Add to this mix a Burglar (actor Selsdon) [Bill Nowell] an old absentminded actor who has a drinking problem, and a put-upon stage manager Poppy [Elizabeth Bowles] and harried stagehand Tim [Austin Thompson] -- and the fact that there are numerous secrets within the group -- and predictable mayhem soon dominates the scene.

Act One is a dress rehearsal of the first act of Nothing On that clearly demonstrates how ill-prepared they are to perform in front of an audience with the director Lloyd [Stephen Dubberley] rapidly losing patience with his cast and their constant questions and suggestions for improvement. And we see them both in their roles in Nothing On and the relationships of their off-stage lives.

Act Two brings the action backstage a month into the run of the play while the Act One of Nothing On we saw earlier is being performed onstage, and the relationships deteriorate as the actors attempt to settle their personal disputes while the performance must continue.

And Act Three, near the end of the run of Nothing On, becomes more and more outrageous as the actors sabotage and undermine the performances and try to save some semblance of order by having to ad lib their way through it.

Truly an ensemble piece played by veteran actors who bring all their skills to the fore, the Depot's production of Noises Off deserves the resounding responses it s receiving.