Theater Magic: Noises Off at ERCT

The feeling of theater magic flows from the stage to my seat in the 5th row. I am getting excited for the show and am itching to write about it.

The Elk River Community Theater’s (ERCT) production of “Noises Off” by Michael Frayn is currently in rehearsals for their July 27th opening night at the Zabee Theater at Elk River High School. The play is a farce about a play within a play. Real actors playing fake actors playing characters in a play with a lot of sardines.

If it sounds confusing, it won’t be. The script is well-written and the cast is kept small so the story is easy to follow in this fun romp through what things can be like behind-the-scenes of a Broadway play.

Our cast is filled with veteran and new artists from the area, including Dierdra Ann as the lead actress, Dotty Otley. Bob Bowersox plays the director of the play, Lloyd Dallas. Lloyd is desperately trying to pull the production together with only a couple weeks rehearsal and Dotty has spent all her retirement money producing the play. Everyone has something at stake in “Noises Off.”

Each of the three acts of Noises Off contains a performance of the first act of Nothing On. Act One is set at the dress rehearsal, the night before opening at the (fictional) Grand Theatre in Weston-super-Mare, with the cast still fumbling with entrances and exits, missed cues, misspoken lines, and bothersome props, most notably several plates of sardines. Act Two portrays a Wednesday matinee performance one month later, at the (again fictional) Theatre Royal in Ashton-under-Lyne. In this act, the play is seen from backstage, providing a view that reveals the deteriorating personal relationships among the cast that have led to offstage shenanigans and onstage bedlam. Also, there appears to be no true resolution. The play simply falls into turmoil and disorder before the curtain is pulled. In Act Three, we see a performance near the end of the ten-week run, at the (still fictional) Municipal Theatre in Stockton-on-Tees, when personal friction has continued to increase and everyone is bored and anxious to be done with the play. The actors attempt to cover up a series of mishaps but only compound the problems and draw attention to the bungling performance. Much of the comedy emerges from the subtle variations in each version as off-stage chaos affects on-stage performance, with a great deal of slapstick. The contrast between players’ on-stage and off-stage personalities is also a source of comic dissonance.

We’ll see you on the boards!

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