William Peace Theatre’s Noises Off! Is a Highly Charged, Madcap Comedy

A farcical comedy is fun. A farcical comedy that contains a farcical comedy is double the fun! And when it this genre is performed quickly and with precision, the fun increases exponentially. Michael Frayn’s Noises Off! is a farce that contains a farce. William Peace Theatre’s production, directed by Wade Newhouse, is performed quickly and with precision. So, yes, it provides a great deal of fun.

The premise is simple: a second-rate British touring company is taking a farcical comedy on tour. This farce-within-the-farce is appropriately named Nothing On. The first act of Noises Off! is the disastrous final dress rehearsal of the first act of Nothing On — the show is obviously not ready to open, but they are carrying on.

Act Two of Noises Off! takes place a month down the road. It is the same first act of Nothing On, as seen from behind the set. Personal relationships and rivalries have developed; and trouble is brewing backstage, trouble that seriously hampers the action onstage. Act Three is one more attempt at that first act on the final performance of the tour.

The result is total mayhem: a theatrical manifestation of Murphy’s Law, as British touring company proves that anything that can go wrong will gowrong. Doors fail to open, doorknobs come off, props that are supposed to be struck are not (and vice versa), actors trip and swoon, noses bleed, contact lenses are lost and found, actors drop lines and miss their cues, etc., etc., etc. And that’s just Act One.

In Act Two, we have ego battles and romantic attachments and triangles. Somebody sees something and gets the wrong idea. Somebody sees something and gets the right idea. Suddenly there is a great potential for violence and bodily harm. Suffice it to say: Fight director Jeff A.R. Jones has his work cut out for him; and he delivers, in spades!

The William Peace Theatre's Feb. 16-26 collegiate production of Michael Frayn's <em>Noises Off!</em> stars (from left) Sarah Jones, Dustin Walker, Brenna Cohan, Hannah Marks, Mary Lynn Bain, and Nathan Hamilton (photo by Josh Walker)
William Peace Theatre’s Feb. 16-26 production of Noises Off! stars (from left) Sarah Jones, Dustin Walker, Brenna Cohan, Hannah Marks, Mary Lynn Bain, and Nathan Hamilton (photo by Josh Walker)

One of the tricky things about this show is that the actors who play the parts of actors in the play have to “act twice.” That is, each of these actors creates a character who then creates another character.

In Nothing On, Roger and Vicki are trying to have a romantic encounter.

Dustin Alexander Walker plays Gary, who plays Roger. Gary is a good actor but not capable of much interaction outside the script. Walker portrays this character’s insecurities with aplomb.

Mary Lynn Bain plays Brooke, who plays Vicki. Bain easily convinces us that Brooke is an airhead. She also plays the backstage jealousies well. The contact lens gags are great. (Kurt heartily approves of Vicki’s costume.)

Roger and Vicki are interrupted by Mrs. Clackett.

Hannah Marks plays Dotty, who plays Mrs. Clackett. Marks’ Dotty is accustomed to being in better productions and probably did a better job in her younger days.

Nathan Hamilton and Brenna Coogan star in <em>Noises Off!</em> (photo by Josh Walker)
Nathan Hamilton and Brenna Coogan star in Noises Off! (photo by Josh Walker)

Philip and Flavia are also trying to have a romantic encounter — at the same house.

Nathan Hamilton plays Freddie, who plays Philip (and the Sheikh). Freddie is the type of actor who constantly has to discuss motivation. Hamilton takes every opportunity to convey Freddy’s earnest approach to acting.

Brenna Coogan plays Belinda, who plays Flavia. Coogan’s Belinda scurries around, constantly trying to fix things. “Mother hen” is the image that comes to mind.

None of these people are supposed to be at this house at this time. Neither is a certain burglar.

Sai Graham plays Selsdon, who plays the burglar. Graham’s burglar is clearly more interested in drink than in acting.

Then there is Lloyd, the harried director of Nothing On. Bobby Simcox does a good job of parodying various directorial styles and techniques, along with Lloyd’s foibles.

William Peace Theatre's Feb. 16-26 collegiate presentation of Michael Frayn's <em>Noises Off!</em> stars (from left) Bobby Simcox, Brenna Coogan, Nathan Hamilton, and Hannah Marks (photo by Josh Walker)
William Peace Theatre’s Feb. 16-26 collegiate presentation of Michael Frayn’s Noises Off! stars (from left) Bobby Simcox, Brenna Coogan, Nathan Hamilton, and Hannah Marks (photo by Josh Walker)

Poppy (Sarah Marlene Jones) is the overworked stage manager with whom Lloyd is having one of his affairs. Tim (Mitchell Aaron Mulkey) is Poppy’s seriously overworked assistant. Both Jones and Mulkey deliver well, showing the two shouldering even more responsibilities than their real-life counterparts.

Scenic designer Sonya Drum give us two sets. The set for Acts One and Three consists of the set of Nothing On. It is a gorgeous room in a country mansion. There are a plethora of doors, all ripe for the slamming. The set for Act Two is the backstage area for the other set. Drum obviously knows her way around set construction — the details are all there. Naturally, this is a rotating set. Watching the stage hands rotate it during the two intermissions is a bonus show in itself.

If you are ready for some door-slamming, axe-swinging fun, with perfectly timed visual jokes and perfectly mistimed gags Noises Off! is the perfect opportunity.

Hannah Marks and Bobby Simcox star in <em>Noises Off!</em> (photo by Josh Walker)
Hannah Marks and Bobby Simcox star in Noises Off! (photo by Josh Walker)

SECOND OPINION: Feb. 17th Raleigh, NC Triangle Review preview by Dustin K. Britt, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2017/02/william-peace-theatre-nurtures-comic-talent-with-michael-frayns-1982-farce-noises-off/.)

William Peace Theatre presents NOISES OFF at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 17, 18, 24, and 25 and 2 p.m. Feb. 26 in the Leggett Theater on the second floor of Main Building at William Peace University, 15 E. Peace St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27604.

TICKETS: $5-$15.

BOX OFFICE: 919-508-2051 or https://www.eventbrite.com/e/noises-off-tickets-31270873023?aff=erelexpmlt.

SHOW: https://www.peace.edu/news/william-peace-theatre-presents-noises-off-february-16-18-24-26/ and https://www.facebook.com/events/223216358087480/.

VIDEO PREVIEW: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4gSGgEo_fmo.

PRESENTER: http://www.peace.edu/about/william-peace-theatre-2/ and https://www.facebook.com/williampeacetheatre.

VENUE/DIRECTIONS: http://www.visitraleigh.com/listings/William-Peace-University-Main-Building/59892/.


Noises Off! (1982 Hammersmith, 1983 Broadway, 2000 West End, and 2001 and 2016 Broadway Revival farce): http://www.samuelfrench.com/p/2894/noises-off (Samuel French, Inc.), http://www.roundabouttheatre.org/Shows-Events/Noises-Off.aspx (official website for the 2016 Broadway Revival), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-show/noises-off-6602 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noises_Off (Wikipedia).

The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).

Study Guide: https://www.bard.org/study-guides/noises-off-study-guide (Utah Shakespeare Festival).

Michael Frayn (English playwright and screenwriter: https://www.faber.co.uk/author/michael-frayn/ (Faber & Faber author’s page), https://literature.britishcouncil.org/writer/michael-frayn (British Council | Literature), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/michael-frayn-7726 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0292450/ (Internet Movie Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Frayn (Wikipedia).

Noises Off! (1992 film): http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/19466/Noises-Off/ (Turner Classic Movies), http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0105017/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noises_Off_%28film%29 (Wikipedia).

Wade Newhouse, Ph.D. (director and associate professor of English at William Peace University): http://www.peace.edu/profiles/wade-newhouse-ph-d/ (William Peace University bio) and https://www.facebook.com/wade.newhouse (Facebook page).


Pamela Vesper has been a Raleigh resident for more than 20 years. A local attorney for licensed professionals, when she’s not in court, Pam can be found watching or participating in local theater productions or enjoying the vibrant Raleigh music and craft beer scene. She also loves indie and foreign films and was an anchor on the local cable show, Movie Minutes. Pam has an opinion on just about everything; just ask her. Kurt Benrud is a graduate of Cary High School and N.C. State University, and he has taught English at both. He first became involved in local theater in 1980. He has served on the board of directors for both the Cary Players and the Cary Playwrights’ Forum. He is also a volunteer reader with Triangle Radio Reading Service. Click here to read their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.