Under the gifted direction of Arcadia High School Drama teacher Steven Volpe, this year’s drama students have tackled a challenging albeit rather pleasing production.
“Noises Off” depicts the onstage and backstage antics of a fifth-rate bumbling acting troupe touring its production of “Nothing On”, a bedroom farce. This comedy will take you behind the scenes of this outrageous production that will keep you laughing with misspoken lines, missed cues, slamming doors, offstage chaos, and just general chaos and onstage slapstick that Arcadia High drama students know so well.
“Noises Off” is a 1982 play by English playwright Michael Frayn. The idea for it was born in 1970, when Frayn was standing in the wings watching a performance of “Chinamen”, a farce that he had written for Lynn Redgrave. According to the playwright, “It was funnier from behind than in front and I thought that one day I must write a farce from behind.”
The prototype, a short-lived one-act play entitled Exits, was written and performed in 1977. At the request of associate Michael Codron, Frayn expanded the play into what would become “Noises Off”.
In his plot for “Noises Off”, Frayn plays on the concept of a play within a play, in this case a dreadful sex comedy titled Nothing On—the type of play in which young girls run about in their underwear, old men drop their trousers, and many doors continually open and shut. “Nothing On” is set in “a delightful 16th-century posset mill” that has been converted to a modern dwelling for which renters are solicited; the fictional playwright is appropriately named Robin Housemonger. Each of the three acts of “Noises Off” contains a performance of the first act of “Nothing On”.
The first act takes place at the dress rehearsal one day before opening night at the “Grand Theatre” in Weston-super-Mare South west England, with the cast still fumbling with entrances and exits, missed cues, misspoken lines, and bothersome props, most notably several plates of sardines.
Act Two portrays a Wednesday matinee performance one month later at the Theatre Royal in Ashton-under-Lyne. In this act, the play is seen from backstage, providing a view that reveals the deteriorating personal relationships among the cast that have led to offstage shenanigans and onstage bedlam. And there appears to be no true resolution: The play simply falls into turmoil and disorder before the curtain is pulled.
In Act Three, we see a performance near the end of the ten-week run, at the Municipal Theatre in Stockton-on-Tees, when personal friction has continued to increase and everyone is bored and anxious to be done with the play. The actors attempt to cover up a series of mishaps but only compound the problems and draw attention to the bungling performance.
Much of the comedy emerges from the subtle variations in each version as off-stage chaos affects on-stage performance, with a great deal of slapstick. The contrast between players’ on-stage and off-stage personalities is also a source of comic dissonance. Don’t miss this ambitious undertaking by the AHS Drama Department. The set design alone took weeks to build, and play lovers won’t be disappointed.
“Noises Off” runs from November 3rd to 7th, with all performances scheduled for 7 p.m. at the AHS Little Theatre. Call (626) 821-8370, ext. 1129 for more information and to reserve tickets.