'Noises Off' Is a Scream At Langley High
Doors that don’t stay closed, a backstage love triangle and a bumbling alcoholic: Throw in a plate or two of sardines and what you get is “Noises Off,” a British farce performed to comic delight by Langley High School.
Written by Michael Frayn in 1982, “Noises Off” is actually the story of another farce — “Nothing On” — being performed by a group of amateurish actors with a barrage of personal problems that get in the way of their show. “Noises Off” refers to the sound effects that come from offstage, where most of the show’s comedy originates. Frayn wanted to “write a farce from behind,” and the cast of Langley’s production brought Frayn’s humor to life.
As the show opens, the cast of “Nothing On” is in the depths of a dress rehearsal. From the audience, lothario director Lloyd (Wes Brandt) expresses his exasperation at the incompetence of the actors onstage. The director’s witty, intelligent sarcasm was coolly delivered and expertly timed. Brandt’s ability to draw laughs with his lines in a play that is dominated by slapstick was engrossing.
Exaggerated facial expressions, a crisp distinction between her character and her character’s character and an effortless Cockney accent singled out Kelly Hubell. Hubell played Dottie, a actress having an affair with her costar, Freddie (Alvin Kuai), and also played the housekeeper Mrs. Clackett. Also notable was Meg Honigberg as a delightfully awful burglar and the absentminded, whiskey-drowned Selsdon. Her rickety onstage stumbling and backstage antics were funny and convincing.
Although some actors occasionally lacked enunciation and energy in the first act, the jewels of this show were the last two acts, in which the slapstick was executed to near perfection, including a painfully realistic tumble down a full flight of stairs. The cast whirled around the two-story set, closing and opening doors, swinging axes and even dropping pants in true farcical fashion, all to the audience’s delight.
More than 300 sound cues, designed by Yusuf Goal, were a key element to the absurdity, and worked well to enhance the show, despite a little microphone feedback.
A hectic jumble of bags, boxes and phones and a cast of playfully deranged actors were not too much to for the Langley cast to handle. The actors had the audience in stitches and eagerly glancing around the stage in anticipation of more hilarity.
Doors are, of course the principle ingredient of any good farce. As Lloyd so aptly puts it, “Let there be doors that open when they open, and close when they close.”
Washington Post Editors
November 25, 2008; 9:24 AM ET
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