Just in time as an antidote to those typically Midwestern winter blahs, the IU Department of Theatre and Drama offers Michael Frayn's Noises Off in a maddeningly complicated, but eventually satisfying production directed by Murray McGibbon. I got a sneak peak at the final dress rehearsal.
The show opens as a down at the heels English company has its final rehearsals for a tired sex farce called Nothing On. The show looks as if it is headed for disaster. Cues are missed. Lines are forgotten the wrong doors open and close. A key actor is missing.
Part of the evening's fun is that included in the program we have a detailed playbill for the farce complete with fictional biographies of the cast and fake ads for non-existent products and services.
Despite the chaos of the rehearsal, we get a general outline of the plot. A couple sneak back to their country home from self- imposed tax exile in Spain. Meanwhile the estate agent is seeking to use the home for a rendezvous. Add to these couples a confused housekeeper and an aged burglar and you've got the sextet for the chamber comedy.
Blake Alvey is the show's harried director. Mathew Murry plays the philandering estate agent. Berklea Going, in costume designer Emmie Phelps dream pink undies is his clueless Brooke. A nervous Caleb Curtis plays the sensitive home owner and tax evader Frederick. A dignified Lindsey Gwen Franxman is his sensible wife. Nick Munson and Charley Tench are the hard working stage managers and understudies. Justino Brokaw is the show's aged and sturdily bibulous burglar. Meghan Deiter plays the frequently baffled house keeper and purveyor of a mysteriously appearing and disappearing plate of sardines.
For the second act of Noises Off, scenic designer Kevin Nelson's set is rotated and we watch the show play out from back stage. Some of the problems in the rehearsal have been smoothed out, but not all and to the audience's continued laughter new ones crop up. There's a brief pause and the final act presents the company near the end of its run and near the end of the patience of all involved. By now the audience is fully prepped for the plot, the characters and the likely gags, but there are still plenty of surprises in Murray McGibbon's production and the laughter became simply explosive as gag built on gag.
Michael Frayn's Noises Off a the Ruth N. Halls Theatre plays February 26,27 and March 1-5 .
At the theatre for you, I'm George Walker.