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Insanity on in Noises Off



By Anthony Lauriello     11/11/10 6:00pm

My decision to end my acting career after my role as "chorus member" in Sunset Mesa Elementary School's stellar and mandatory musical The Prince and the Penguin has longed caused consternation and sadness among theater lovers. It also made me feel a little out of the loop while watching the Rice Players' latest offering, the Michael Frayne satire Noises Off, directed byprofessor Justin Doran. The play whimsically satirizes the experience of being a thespian as it follows a dysfunctional group of actors performing the terrible and raunchy comedy Nothing On. People with experience in the performing arts will likely enjoy the play the most, as they can relate on some level with the disastrous mistakes made during the play within the play, but Noises Off still has some laughs to offer to those of us unfamiliar to theater.Act I gets off to a slow start, as we see the mock production company doing their final and rushed rehearsal of Nothing On. Director Lloyd Dallas (Wiess College junior Dustin Tannahill) expresses his exasperated rage at his unprepared actors as we are introduced to the various characters and their on-stage and off-stage personalities. The play begins to pick up in Act II, as the set twirls around and we now see the first scene of Nothing On that was in Act I from backstage. The situation spirals out of control as various relationships and drama between the actors becomes revealed. Finally in Act III when we once again see the same scene - this time again from the perspective of the audience in Act I - everything has reached a fever pitch of mayhem and insanity as the characters spoil their bodies and their minds in a desperate and futile attempt to make the "show go on."

The setting and lighting of the play are delightful, especially in Act II when we see the backstage of the Nothing On set. Well placed wooden beams allow the characters to climb from level to level and to make numerous Buster Keaton-esque foibles and falls.

The actors do a solid job, particularly considering the technically difficult slapstick maneuvers. Jones College sophomore Carter Spires, playing stubborn actor Gary Lejeune, does an excellent job falling down stairs in the third act. While the actors excel in the physical aspects of the show, their faux British accents do get a little grating at times. This might have more to do with the nature of the show then any particularly failure on the actor's parts. Another performance of particular note is that of Will Rice College senior Amara DiFrancesco, who plays the ditzy Brooke Ashton. Although scantily clad in lingerie, she still managed to keep a genuine sense of earnestness among the manic proceedings.

The goofy humor of the play, which had a strange and unexplainable fixation with sardines, offers a good respite this cold and rainy November. While the ridiculous nature of the comedy might not appeal to those looking for something more serious, those in the mood to see British people hurt themselves would greatly enjoy Noises Off.

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