‘Noises Off!’ gets Peterborough Players season off to raucous start

Ashley Saari

Ashley Saari

Dotty, played by Glynis Bell, attempts to prevent Garry, played by Nicholas Wilder, from murdering his unwitting rival for Dotty’s affections, Freddy, played by Kraig  Swartz.

Dotty, played by Glynis Bell, attempts to prevent Garry, played by Nicholas Wilder, from murdering his unwitting rival for Dotty’s affections, Freddy, played by Kraig  Swartz. COURTESY PHOTO

In front, Selsdon (Gus Kaikkonen), Belinda (Victoria Adams-Zischke), Freddy (Kraig Swartz), and in back, Brooke (Alanna J. Smith) practice lines backstage as they prepare for a performance.

In front, Selsdon (Gus Kaikkonen), Belinda (Victoria Adams-Zischke), Freddy (Kraig Swartz), and in back, Brooke (Alanna J. Smith) practice lines backstage as they prepare for a performance. COURTESY PHOTO

By ASHLEY SAARI

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Published: 06-19-2024 12:06 PM

Modified: 06-20-2024 12:43 PM


Boxes. Doors. Sardines!

Thus defines the trials and tribulations of the cast of the play-within-the-play from the kickoff production of the Peterborough Players’ 2024 season, the farcical “Noises Off!” by Michael Frayn.

Interim Producing Artistic Director Charles Morey has described this season as “full of laughter,” and its first production doesn’t disappoint on that count. Overall a raucously good time, “Noises Off” checks all the boxes of a good farce – buffoonery, sometimes crude; and ludicrous situations.

The story follows the beleaguered cast of a stage play. Over the course of three acts, the play goes from an under-prepared dress rehearsal to a mid-run matinee to the tail end of the tour, with each section of the play getting funnier as the jokes set up in the first act begin to pay off as everything begins to fall apart.

The play takes advantage of its play-within-a-play structure by having characters sometimes entering from the audience, treating the Players’ audience as if it were not there, but truly in an empty rehearsal hall where the exasperated director might emerge from to correct the precision and timing needed to execute a properly executed farcical performance, as actors are rushing on and off stage with props.

Also included in the Players’ program for the night is a program for “Nothing On,” the show put on within the show, with some delightful little tidbits. We never get to see, for example, the hospital trolley straitjacket or coffin listed in the production credits among the props, presumably meant to be included in the play’s second act, which they never get to on stage. One must wonder what they were for?

The first act gives a much-interrupted, but mostly intact version of the play the characters are in. Much of the comedy here comes from the comedy inherent in the farce the characters are performing.

A special shout-out for the first act must go to the performance of Alanna J. Smith as Brooke Ashton. Brooke’s prior acting credits include unnamed extras and appearing covered in nothing but froth in a beer commercial, which shows in her somehow equally over-the-top and wooden performance. Smith has some of the best physical comedy in the show, outdone only by Nicholas Wilder’s portrayal of Garry Lejeune.

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In the second act, we go behind the set, where messy interpersonal relationships among the cast clash with corralling the cast alcoholic, soothing one of the disgruntled leads and running interference between a slighted man and his unwitting love rival, which results in him chasing the man about with an ax while in the back of the stage (which, from the cast’s perspective, is the front of the house) because the show must go on.

Wilder has some of his best moments in this act, as he hops up and down the stairs frantically after some revenge shoelace-tying, and chases his somewhat-dim cast member Freddy, played by Kraig Swartz, about the stage with an ax, believing him to have made moves on his lover, Dotty, played by Glynis Bell, as the rest of the cast desperately attempts to play keep-away with the weapon.

This portion of the play gets almost too chaotic. As the cast is attempting to get control of the ax, they are also trying to hide a bottle of liquor from Selsdon, played by Gus Kaikkonen, who likes his drink a bit too much, and deliver gifts from show director Lloyd, played by Carl N. Wallnau, to Brooke, while he also attempts to avoid the play’s production manager, Poppy, played by Lizzy Ryland.

Much of the action the audience sees in the second act is mime, as the cast attempts to keep quiet while the show goes on at the front of the house, and whisper-shout their grievances. While the chaos is intentional, there are several things going on at once, making it one of the more-difficult pieces to follow.

The third act brings it back, and is the funniest of the show, paying off many of the jokes set up in the first two acts, as the cast goes completely off the rails.

“Noises Off!” runs through June 30. Shows are at 7:30 p.m., with a 4 p.m. Sunday matinee. For information or to purchase tickets, visit peterboroughplayers.org.

 

Ashley Saari can be reached at 603-924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on X @AshleySaariMLT>