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Noises Off to Open Players’ 2015-2016 Season

by Bob McLaughlin and John Lieder
Playwright Michael Frayn reportedly got the initial inspiration for his farce Noises Off while watching from the wings while one of his earlier plays was being performed. He realized that what was going on backstage was funnier than what the audience was seeing. A dozen years later this epiphany came to fruition in the 1982 London premiere of Noises Off, surely the oddest love letter to the theater ever to take the stage. The play quickly transferred to Broadway in 1983, succeeded by a series of revivals: London 2000 and Broadway 2001; London 2011 and a new Broadway production slated for later this season, starring Andrea Martin, Megan Hilty, and Rob McClure. There was also a not-bad film adaptation in 1992.

Frayn, who has revised the play over the years, removing dated references and adding to the zaniness, has written many other plays, the most recent of which have tended more toward the philosophical than the farcical. Copenhagen (1998) explores the historical 1942 meeting between Werner von Heisenberg and Niels Bohr, former friends but now on opposite sides of World War II. The play uses concepts from theoretical physics to reflect on the uncertainty of the past. Democracy (2003) deals with real-life West German Chancellor Willy Brandt and the dilemma caused by the discovery of a highly placed communist spy in his office. Despite these successes, Frayn remains best known for Noises Off.

The 2015 production of Noises Off, is Community Players’ third iteration of the show. Several members of the current staff and cast were involved in the 2007 production and one cast member was involved with the 1992 production.

Life definitely imitates art as Brian Artman, who was the director of the 2007 production, portrays the director of the play-within-the-play, Lloyd Dallas, in the current production. Lloyd Dallas’ overworked stage manager is Timothy Allgood, played by Jon Hubal, and Dallas’ assistant stage manager, and sometime love interest is Poppy Norton-Taylor, played by Erica Sommers. Dallas’ cast includes the ditzy Dotty Otley, played by Darlene Lloyd; the alluring Brooke Ashton, played by Hannah Kerns; the tenderhearted Belinda Blair, played by Bridgette Richard; the ridiculously inarticulate Garry Lejeune, played by Thom Rakestraw; and the aged and alcoholic Selsdon Mowbray, played by Alan Wilson. The final member of Dallas’ cast is the nervous Frederick Fellows, played by Chris Terven who played Tim Allgood and built the set for the 1992 production. The script is very difficult to memorize and requires pinpoint timing of the lines and entrances. And with no fewer than eight doors built into a two level set, there are a lot of entrances. Kudos to this cast for doing a splendid job!

Tom Smith directs the current production. His assistant director and stage manager is Josh McCauley. Andy Cary is the producer with Eddy Arteman doing costumes. (Eddy also costumed the 2007 production.) Mark Wright is the lighting designer. Rich Plotkin is doing sound, with help from Rosie Hauck and Eli Mundy. The complex properties design is being dutifully serviced by the team of Carol Plotkin, Dorothy Mundy, Judy Stroh and Theresa Kerber. (Plotkin, Mundy and Stroh also did properties for the 2007 production.) Carlene Dryer is house manager.

The set must rotate 180 degrees so the audience can see the backstage antics of the cast in the second act. Jeremy Stiller, who also designed the 2007 set, has created another masterpiece for the 2015 production.

Noises Off is a farce that contains mature language (naughty words) and sexual inferences. It is not intended for preteens. (The 1992 movie version with Michael Caine and Carol Burnett was rated PG-13.)

The pay-what-you-can Preview Performance is Thursday, September 3, with regular performances for two weekends only, September 4-6 and September 10-13. As usual, evening performances begin at 7:30 with Sunday matinees at 2:30.