‘Noises Off’ delves into character

‘Noises Off’ delves into character

November 8, 2018

The Brandeis Undergraduate Theater Collective’s production of Michael Frayn’s “Noises Off” is a hilarious take on the behind-the-scenes drama of theatre. The plot follows the cast and crew of a play called “Nothing On” as their interpersonal drama eventually ruins their show. In the UTC’s production, director Elana Kellner ’19 reimagines the dysfunctional theatre troupe as an even more dysfunctional college theatre troupe. In Kellner’s adaptation, the plot more or less remains unchanged, but the relationship drama becomes much more realistic and relatable to a college audience.

The story follows a college performance of “Nothing On” in three stages of its production: final dress rehearsal, opening night, and the final show. During the final dress, student director Lloyd, played by Ben Greene ’21, becomes increasingly frustrated at the utter incompetence of his actors. Greene’s portrayal of the irate director is phenomenal. While Lloyd can be harsh and cruel at times, he still acts like a director trying to keep the show together. However, during opening night, relationship drama within the company comes to a head as the show grows closer and closer to disaster. Eventually, during the final performance, the tension erupts into utter chaos.
While the true plot of the show is behind the scenes, the play within the play is an essential part of the production. The fictional play “Nothing On” serves as a backdrop that keeps the dysfunctional cast of characters together and acts as the catalyst for the relationship drama behind the scenes. Several cast members in “Noises Off” also have to play parts in “Nothing On.” This forces them to play two different characters at the same time. Eli Esrig ’19 plays Garry who in turn portrays Roger is an excellent example of this. Esrig portrays Garry as a somewhat dimwitted leading man-type actor who is in a relationship with his fellow cast member Dotty, portrayed by Blake Rosen ’21. As their rocky relationship causes Garry to become increasingly jealous, Esrig alters both how Garry and Roger are portrayed. During act two Garry becomes more and more aggressive and changes in his character are reflected in how Roger acts in “Nothing On.” Rosen also does this in her portrayal of Dotty and Mrs. Crackett. As Dotty becomes more and more fed up with Garry’s constant jealousy, their relationship issues begin to bleed into their interactions as Mrs. Clackett and Roger. Almost every character is embroiled in some interpersonal issue like Garry and Dotty.
Lloyd is also involved in a relationship with one of his actresses, Brooke, and his stage manager Polly. Sophie Lee ’21 plays Brooke, the object of Lloyd’s affections. Brooke is a stereotypical ditzy pretty girl who clearly got the part of Vicky because she was sleeping with the director. This is shown through Brooke’s inability to pay attention to her fellow performers as if she is off in her own little world. It takes a great actor to play a terrible one and Lee’s portrayal of Brooke demonstrates this. On the other end of this love triangle is the show’s stage manager Poppy, played by Leanna Ugent ’22. The stage manager Poppy has to juggle keeping the show running, as well as her own personal issues. Ugent does an excellent job of showing how stressed Poppy becomes both over the show and her relationship with Lloyd. Ugent also adds depth to Poppy through little quirks like playing with paper airplanes. Little details like these give the audience a glimpse of what is happening behind the set and in the wings of a theatre production.

One of the most ingenious parts of the show is the set itself, thanks to the efforts of set designer Molly Rocca ’20. During the first act, the stage is set like a typical theatre production. However, during the intermission, the set is seemingly turned around and the audience gets a literal look backstage. During this portion of the play, the audience gets to glimpse the backstage drama from the perspective of the cast and crew. Later in the third act, the set is changed back in order for the audience to see how the backstage drama affects their show. These backstage issues quickly evolve into hilarious hijinks ranging from tying Garry’s shoelaces together to Lloyd sitting on a cactus.

While the set is phenomenal and Lloyd sitting on a cactus is funny, the show truly shines with its realistic and hilarious characters. As previously stated, adapting the play to a college setting was a great idea. The relationship drama of Garry and Dotty as well as the love triangle with Lloyd, Poppy, and Brooke feels more realistic and relatable to college students. Other characters also become more relatable and funny when portrayed as college students. For example, Belinda, portrayed by Adina Jacobson ’20, is sort of the mom of the cast as she tries to keep the show afloat, but also is a bit of a gossip and ends up causing more trouble than she stops. Evan Shapiro ’22 also does a phenomenal job playing the meek Freddy, who faints at the merest sight of blood. Shapiro portrays Freddy as a well-meaning guy, but one who always says the wrong thing at the wrong time. Other realistic and relatable characters include the overworked and underappreciated set designer Kim Allgood, portrayed by Batsheva Moskowitz ’22, and oblivious and always drunk Selsdon, played by Jason Frank ’22. Frank, in particular, stands out as one of the show’s funniest characters. Frank expertly plays Selsdon as a stereotypical college drunk who is more interested in partying than being in the show. His excellent choice in voice and physicality caused a laugh riot every time Selsdon entered the stage.

While the various relationships and interpersonal drama in “Noises Off” were at times hard to follow, the production more than made up for it with excellent acting, amazing set design, and fantastic slapstick comedy. Kellner’s reimagining of “Noises Off” is a truly fantastic farce on what happens behind the scenes of a theatre production.

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