by Angela Theis
Did you ever wonder what happens behind the scenes of your favorite theatrical performances? “Noises Off” just may provide an answer to that with a comedic look at the eccentricities and outlandish happenings going on behind the curtain. The Sam Houston State University Department of Theatre and Musical Theatre will present the playWednesday through Saturday (Oct. 5-8), with performances at 8 p.m. each day and a 2 p.m. Saturday matinee, in the University Theatre Center’s Erica Starr Theatre.
“Noises off” is a farce that was developed by Michael Frayn after he witnessed the ridiculous backstage antics occurring during a performance of “The Two of Us.” Farce theatre relies on quick, surprising series of events, with boisterous and exaggerated characters to evoke humor and laughter from its audiences. “Farce is [comedic] theatre that is big, bold, loud, with wonderful characterizations of characters found in the crazy situations,” said show director and theatre professor Kevin Crouch. “In ‘Noises Off,’ you are seeing a traditional British sex comedy/farce and then seeing how it all goes wrong both on the stage and backstage.”
A play-within-a-play, “Noises Off” bursts with bold, energetic slapstick style comedy. Senior theatre major Morgan Spann plays the role of Dotty Otley, a seasoned actress performing in the play “Nothing On.” “A play-within-a-play sounds like you have to learn a lot, but, actually, once we learn the first act most of the dialogue is the same, and the third act is just the first act with a little different spin on it,” Spann said.
Ephraim Tallerine, a freshman in the SHSU theatre program, plays the part of a “bumbling, aloof” actor named Frederick Fellowes, who portrays Philip Brent in the play-within-the-play. “Once I’m Fredrick, I know what Frederick would do with Philip, so it’s not like I’m learning two completely different people,” Tallerine said. “Phillip is Frederick’s creation, and Frederick is my creation. [They] kind of feed into each other.”
“Noises Off” provides an even higher degree of complexity in the second act, driven almost completely by body language and containing very little dialogue to drive the story and convey the characters’ dynamics. The actors use a Charlie Chaplin-esque style to convey emotion and comedy.
“What was different was that you had to kind of find a way to only use your body to get the story,” Spann said. “It’s surprisingly very taxing when you have to worry about just body language to tell a story.”
The uniqueness of this production is echoed by its spectacular set design. “Because of the nature of the show, the entire set must revolve 180 degrees for the second act and revolve 180 degrees for the third act,” Crouch said. “It has been a huge change for our designer, but they are doing a great job of making this two-story set spin!”
The making of the play is so unique that it has inspired a docuseries, called “Behind the Farce,” by SHSU film major Khoi Nguyen. The docuseries, being released in installments online over the course of the play’s production, follows the cast from auditions to final curtain call.
“My goal since starting school here has always been to encourage more collaboration between the departments within the College of Fine Arts and Mass Communication,” Nguyen said. “By doing this series, not only will others be exposed to the hard work and creativity our school has to offer, but it might spark an interest in those people to join and try something new.”
As the final curtain closes, there is one thing that everyone involved with the production wants patrons to take away—fun. “At the end of the play I just want people walking out with their stomachs hurting,” Tallerine said. “That’s all I want, just to make somebody laugh that hard.”
Tickets are $12 for general admission and $10 for students and senior citizens; they are available online through the Gaertner Performing Arts Center Box Office at shsu.edu/boxoffice or call 936-294-2339.