Noises Off: Porch Light Productions
Michael Frayn’s farcical comedy Noises Off provides an easy night of amusement for any audience member. The precision required, however, is anything but easy in this fast paced glimpse into the backstage shenanigans of a particularly quirky theater company. Porch Light Productions, with direction by Ryan Pifher, manages to execute, with acute accuracy, a chaotic maelstrom of hilarity.
The play opens with the fatigued midnight rehearsal of the troupe’s play within the play, Nothing On. Dotty (Emily Frail), the perplexed perfectionist that never seems to get things right, quibbles over her myriad of props, forgetting whether to remove the sardines, hang up the phone, or retrieve the newspaper. With curt frustration, Lloyd, the director of Nothing On, ironically played by the actual director Ryan Pifher, dices through a quick exchange of comic barbs to get the actress back on track.
The play Nothing On progresses, revealing each actor and their most notable quirks. The cerebral, stammering Garry (Lucas Turner), incapable of completing a constructive sentence. The vapid vision-impaired beauty Brooke (Allison Troesch), constantly losing her contact lens. The persnickety and apologetic Freddy (Christopher Stokes), who loses consciousness or bleeds at the slightest hint of violence. The sprightly and optimistic gossip Belinda (Ashley Blasand), revealing the torrid affairs between Garry and Dotty and Lloyd and Brooke.
Act One is spent largely immersed in the setup of these characters, through anecdotal exposition, quip and gibe. Notably, Ryan Pifher’s portrayal of Lloyd demonstrates a masterful use of language and timing, garnering giggles through righteous fury and alacrity. Act Two takes the prepared powder keg and lights the fuse, the audience rightfully exploding into fits of riotous laughter. Not one actor misses the mark in this act, and the cast truly gels to a cohesive whole in crisply choreographed pandemonium. Illustrating his prowess for physical comedy, Lucas Turner, as the jilted Garry, pranks and pratfalls with a heightened maddened expression that is as believable as it is hilarious. The final act returns us back to view the production from the front, desperately struggling to maintain its legs in the wake of Act Two. Allison Troesch and Ashley Blasand take control of this act as Brooke and Belinda respectively, one plowing obliviously through the text despite the stacking blunders and the other desperately attempting to seam together the disparate errors.
While Noises Off will not leave you pondering its meaning or sate your intellect, this Porch Light Production will definitely deliver schaudenfraudic release.
The entire ensemble truly delivers the goods in the second act. These twenty minutes alone are worth the price of admission.
A farce of this type relies heavily on the functionality of the set and tools at the actor’s disposal. While every inch of the available space is used to create the expansive two-story set, within the confines of the Porch Light Theatre, the action feels cramped in the first and third act.
Bring a bottle of wine (as the Porch Light Theater allows BYOB), a friend or two, and a sense of humor and you are bound to have a great time at Noises Off.