Playhouse Merced rounds off its 20th season in its downtown theater location with the British farce “Noises Off,” opening tonight.
“This is probably one of my favorite farces in theater, and the construction of the play is so unique,” actor Robert Hypes said. “Basically, in Act I, you get to see a dress rehearsal of a theater production. In Act II, the entire stage turns so you are treated to what goes on backstage during a show when things are going wrong; and for Act III, the stage flips back around and you get to see the final performance when anything that can go wrong, does.”
A play in three acts, “Noises Off” is written by Michael Frayn and chronicles a director’s quest of directing his highly dysfunctional cast in a farce of a play called “Nothing On,” complete with scantily clad women, a drunk man who occasionally drops his pants, a woman obsessed with sardines and, of course, physical comedy involving falling down stairs, through windows and more.
“It’s hilarious,” Hypes said. “The show is funny from start to finish, and I think people will be laughing so hard, their stomachs are going to start hurting. When you add in incredibly funny characters, an entire two-story set that turns in a full circle and the sheer level of talent that we have in this production, I think you have an event that is truly special for all of Merced.”
Noelle Chandler plays the role of Belinda Blair and likes the opportunity for the public to get to see what really goes on behind the stage curtain.
“You so rarely get to see the backstage shenanigans of a group of actors,” she said. “Now’s your chance. My favorite part is definitely Act II, when we get to run around stage putting out fires but no one can speak, because we’re actually backstage during a performance. It’s hysterical watching all the interactions and relationships. Everything is so clear. It’s wildly funny and tons of fun.”
With so much going on, the director must stay on his toes to keep things from falling apart.
“It is a very difficult play to produce, lots of moving parts,” director Dusty Guthier said. “Real actors playing characters in a show, playing actors in a play. Confused already? Known as one of the most difficult pieces of comedy to produce on stage, (a farce) is a challenge for the actors, crew and directors who endeavor in such an undertaking.”
Guthier said his favorite part of the process is the rehearsal.
“Watching this show come together from all aspects – acting, set design and build, costumes, sound, lights, etc,” Guthier said. “Because it is a show about pace and timing, all these elements are critical to the success of the production. Wondering if they will all fall in line in time for opening is an amazing experience for a director. Everything that can go wrong with a show will go wrong and does go wrong for this show. It’s funny!”