‘Noises Off’ Theatrical Mayhem

The Barn Theatre opened its production of “Noises Off” Tuesday even and, sad to say, it will be played for one week only.

Sad because, in spite of my real aversion to the usually senseless machinations of farce — and “Noises Off” has more than its fair share — there is something about this super-tangled tale of a less-than-A-list theatrical company that put it at the top of my “see-it-whenever-you-ca“ list!

Actors Jonnie Czarpathios a d Melissa Cotton Hunter play actors Garry Lejeune and Brooke Ashton in The Barn Theatre production of NOISES OFF.

If The Barn production is a little rough in spots, the escalating laughter covers almost everything.

AND the fact that the brave band of nine performers (plus, of course, production people) assembled this production in a week is astounding if not mind-boggling.

As required in all farces, there is a goodly number of frequently-slammed doors (and a bay window). Added obstacle here is that the doors are divided, upstairs and downstairs, with two flights of stairs, either being the access to the upper level.

Not only must the players remember which doors to enter/exit but the number of times most have to run up and down is enough to qualify them for any steeplechase.

The action centers around the bumblingly inept professional touring company of a sex farce titled “Nothing On.” It is midnight before opening and the director Lloyd Dallas (guest star Robert Newman) is having little or no success in holding his cast together.

Penelope Alex as Dotty Otley playing Mrs. Clackett joins the free-for-all in The Barn Theatre production of NOISES OFF.

Leading lady (and primary investor) is Dotty Oatley (Barn veteran Penelope Alex), playing Mrs. Clackett, housekeeper for Phillip and Flavia Brent  (played by Patrick Hunter and Andrea Arvanigian as Frederick Fellowes and Belinda Blair playing the Brents), a couple currently hiding out from the tax authorities.

Into their supposedly vacant house come rental agent Roger Trampleman (played by Jonnie Carpathios as Garry Lejune) and his girlfriend Vicki (Melissa Cotton Hunter as Brooke Adams) hoping to have a little alone time . They are followed closely by the Brents making an undercover visit. The final player is a rather ancient (and alcoholic) burglar (Seledon  Mowbray as played by John Jay Espino).

Standing by are Poppy Norton-Taylor, assistant stage manager and understudy for all female parts (Samantha Rickard) and stage manager Tim Allgood (Christian Edwards),  whose assignments include fixing the set, understudying all the male roles and running errands for the director.

”Noises Off” written by British playwright Michael Frayn, is in three acts which, decades ago, was the norm. Here, however, it is necessary as acts one — the final rehearsal — and three — the final performance in the tour — are from the audience view and act two is backstage at a matinee performance about one month in the tour.

Robert Newman as directorLloyd Dallas sends stage manager Tim Allgood (Christian Edwards) on an errand in The Barn Theatre production of NOISES OFF

And that is all I have to say  — plot and character-wise — but must add that certain props are integral to the comedy, especially plates of sardines that appear and disappear with regularity, as do Brooke’s contact lenses (and her clothes).

Alex’s Clackett moves through the increasing pandemonium, sardines in hand (or not), like a battleship in a storm and the Hunters both earn special applause, she for playing almost the entire show in very scanty (but more than a bikini) underwear and he, for literally jumping up the many stairs with his trousers around his ankles!

As the entanglements increase, upstairs and down, inside and out, the action — and the dialogue — become faster and sharper and it is to the credit of the company, and director Brendan Ragotzy, that the pace hardly ever wavers.

Emotions run high backstage as (from left) Brooke and Frederick (Melissa Cotton Hunter and Patrick Hunter) try to fend off Garry (Jonnie Carpathios) in the The Barn Theatre production of NOISES OFF.

The two-story, reversible set designed by John Dobson comes out in tact, withstanding more punishment than required of most. It is because of this turn-around requirement that many smaller theaters are unable to produce this show.

Possibly “Noises Off” is special to this reviewer as, having been backstage for many many productions, I can say it is, of course, greatly over-exaggerated for the sake of humor — or is it?

NOISES OFF plays through Sunday in the playhouse on  M-96 between Galesburg and Augusta, MI. For performance times and reservations, call (26u)731-4121 or visit www.barntheatreschool.org


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