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'Noises Off' supplies slapstick shenanigans

5 stars

by Alexa Milan,
  • (left to right) Senior Chris White, junior Alexandra Hensley and sophomore Caitlin Graham play three of the actors in “Noises Off,” a farce about the misadventures of a theater troupe as they take their play on tour. (Photo by Lindsay Fendt)

  • (Photo by Lindsay Fendt)

  • (Photo by Lindsay Fendt)

  • (Photo by Lindsay Fendt)

  • (Photo by Lindsay Fendt)

  • (Photo by Lindsay Fendt)

  • (Photo by Lindsay Fendt)

  • (Photo by Bryce Little)

  • (Photo by Bryce Little)

  • (Photo by Bryce Little)

For the past two years, Elon's department of performing arts has found success with the classic period comedies "She Stoops to Conquer" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream" as its spring plays. But last weekend, the department featured a completely different kind of play: "Noises Off," a slapstick sex farce about the exploits of a troupe of actors attempting to put on a play.

In the first act, the actors are in their final dress rehearsal for the play "Nothing On," a similar farce about romance, misunderstanding and slamming doors. Director Lloyd Dallas (junior Eddie Schmidt) is desperately trying to pull the production together while mishap after mishap occurs.

There is also the beginning of some off-stage drama when it is revealed that actress Dottie Otley (junior Alexandra Hensley) is dating her younger co-star, Garry Lejeune (senior Chris White).

Lloyd has also been sleeping with both beautiful-but-dumb actress Brooke Ashton (sophomore Caitlin Graham) and stage manager Poppy Norton-Taylor (senior Heather Gilbert).

During the second act, the audience gets a glimpse at what's happening backstage during one of the performances. The romantic drama is intensifying, and a string of misunderstandings leads to constant fighting between all of the actors who aren't onstage.

In the third act, the audience sees the closing night production of "Nothing On," which at this point resembles little of the material seen in the rehearsals during the first act because the backstage fighting has gotten so out of control.

The casting for "Noises Off" was spot-on. Everyone was hilarious in their individual roles and worked well together as an ensemble.

Schmidt's increasing frustrations with the cast garnered lots of laughs as he started shouting from the back of the theater before joining the others onstage. Hensley showed off her comedic skills, especially as her character became increasingly delirious in the third act.

White eased Garry from being mild-mannered and proper to being confrontational and ax-wielding. Graham was hilarious as the oblivious Brooke, who often zoned out when not acting and engaged in odd stretches and meditations rather than listening to angry and frantic Lloyd.

Gilbert was also impressive as quiet and plain Poppy, the polar opposite of Brooke and the last person one would expect to be caught up in a love triangle with the director.

Senior Chris Kiley was funny yet sympathetic as dim-witted actor Frederick Fellowes, who is recently divorced and unwittingly gets caught up in Dottie and Garry's romantic dilemmas. Sophomore Sarah Glover played well off of Kiley as Belinda Blair, a gossipy actress who frequently coddles Frederick.

Junior Christopher Wood is a scene-stealer as Selsdon Mowbray, an elderly actor whose quest for alcohol is often more of a priority than his "Nothing On" performance. Wood proves his versatility here, as Selsdon is the complete opposite of his intense and dramatic turn in "Sweeney Todd."

Freshman Alex Carmine also stood out as technical director Tim Allgood. Carmine stayed in character during the scene changes at intermission, directing the tech crew and moving sets himself.

Most impressive was the entire cast's dedication to the show's physical comedy. Every character was involved in physically demanding slapstick gags that required perfect comedic timing. The actors definitely succeeded in this area and left the audience roaring with laughter.

This play would clearly be a challenge to direct given its necessity for perfectly-timed physicality and witty dialogue delivery, and director Frederick Rubeck deserves a great deal of credit for his efforts. If there were any mistakes, they certainly were not evident to the audience.