Marple Newtown Players’ latest offering is NOISES OFF, a comedy by Michael Frayn. NOISES OFF is what I consider a “theatre geek” play; if you are involved in theatre in any way this play is hysterical, if you aren’t it can be confusing. The play is 3 acts, each act a different evening in the run of play-within-a-play NOTHING ON. The first act is the technical (or is it dress?) rehearsal, the second act about a month later, and the third act is about 2 months after the second. Adding to the fun, the set reverses in each act, so the audience sees the behind-the-scene action during the second act, mostly in pantomime.
This is the final production for MNP at their current home, which I consider a good thing for them in the long run. The current venue is a school stage which is huge with inadequate lighting. As a result the set is immense, filling the entire stage and portable lighting needed to be brought in to adequately light the stage for this production. As a result, the set changes were obviously very difficult (and in the second intermission, took way too long) and the lighting results in some unfortunate shadows that are very distracting. The production would benefit from a smaller staging area, more portable set and better lighting.
The main character is Dotty Otley, played by Dani Kennedy. Dotty is dotty both in name and in memory, and Kennedy does the character justice with an understated performance. She is joined on the NOTHING ON stage by Garry Lejeune (Thomas-Robert Irvin), Brooke Asthon (Elizabeth Hall), Frederick Fellowes (Michael Tarringer) Belinda Blair (Heather Ferrel) and Selsdon (Mike Mogar.) Garry is incapable of completing a sentence in regular conversation, Brooke is easily distracted, Freddy is naive, Belinda is the cast gossip and Selsdon is the theatre “veteran” and has a drinking problem. Add to these characters the stage crew, Tim Allgood (Bob DeMarco) and Poppy Norton-Taylor (Nicole Hearn) and director Lloyd Dallas (Mark Walton.) All of the performers understand their characters’ quirks and portray them well.
Director Cindy Walton made some interesting decisions in putting this production together. There were some changes and additions made to the script which I didn’t think added anything to the show and in a couple cases misinterpreted the material, killing a running gag. The pace of the show is brisk (which it needs to be) but I felt at times it was too brisk, not allowing the actors to adequately show their characters’ unique quirks and overrunning some of the comedy. Some pauses for effect and perhaps a bit slower pace would help carry the story forward and enhance the natural humor of the material. And in the second act, the action didn’t seem to flow naturally, perhaps because of the over-large set which didn’t allow enough time to fully carry out the comedy bits. The actors had to hurry through the mimed backstage activities in order to rush around the set to appear “onstage” to deliver their next lines. As a result the audience was not able to capture the full humor of everything that was going on.
Marple Newtown Players selected a difficult piece for their final production in their current home. Help them say goodbye to this home and go see some fine performances.
by Michael Frayn
Directed by Cindy Walton
September 24 – Oct 3, 2010
Marple Newtown Players
Gauntlett Community Center
West Chester Pike
Newtown Square, PA