By Mary Garlitz
Friday night my husband and I had the chance to go see Noises Off! in Springville. The long running Springville Playhouse, now approaching 70 years of productions, always does a fantastic job and Noises Off was no exception.
Noises Off, written by Michael Frayn, is the story of a group of actors getting ready to produce a play, a farce known as Nothing On!. I don’t want to spoil anything if you are unfamiliar with the show, but the plot centers around producing this play and the hilarious and oftentimes chaotic things that happen in and around making a play come to life for a live audience. Noises Off!, first produced in 1982, has long been a fan favorite for its fast pace and laugh out loud moments. This being a British based farce, there are some things inappropriate for younger audiences. Having grown up on British comedy, I adored it.
Springville Playhouse currently uses Merit Academy, a local charter high school as their performance venue, and it works well for them for now. Plenty of parking and a short walk inside make this its best attribute. It’s unfortunate that in place known as “Art City” that they do not have a permanent performance venue. But that’s another story, not for today. I mention it only as a review of the venue itself. Although a nice building, it’s still in a cafetorium and it’s hard to get away from the feeling that you are walking into a junior high production. However, don’t let that stop you from attending. It was not uncomfortable and everyone had a pleasant view of the stage. The playhouse crew has done a fantastic job with seating and lighting, and the venue did not distract from the wonderful acting I was able to witness. I would love to see this team with a venue they deserve.
Noises Off! was co-directed by Robinne Booth and Connie Warensky and I think they worked well together to let their actors really dig into the characters. As I mentioned, this is a familiar work and one I imagine would be hard to have actors make their own, but they managed to bring their vision to life well in that each character was believable and I think this was a direct reflection on the directing they were given.
The ensemble had great chemistry together and the work they put into creating the “play within a play” I think that synergy comes through.
Booth’s first entrance as Dotty set the tone for the rest of the show. Her comedic timing really plays right into her character’s batty nature. Lon Keith plays Lloyd the Director and having worked in theater many years myself, I felt that he really channels the exasperated director we’ve all worked with. I think one of my favorite parts near the beginning was Starr Williamson’s portrayal of Brooke and how she was “acting.” It’s difficult to be a good actor pretending to be a bad actor and she pulls it off well. Poppy, (Michelle McManus) turned out be one of my favorite characters for her long suffering and slow breakdown. McManus does a respectable job keeping it real without become overly frantic. Nate Warensky and Joni Newman have great chemistry together as the not a couple/couple. When they are “in the play” they connected well and their backstage friendship is spot on. Along with Poppy, the long-suffering Tim Allgood, played by a very versatile Gregory Duffin is one of the most empathetic characters for me. He portrays well the frantic and demanding pace every theater technical person goes through to bring a production to life. And I can’t forget to mention Eric Johnson as Selsdon Mowbray. Just go see the show. Eric is the icing on the cake.
Overall, this production is well done and very well cast. Springville Playhouse pulls in some notable talent both on and off stage and it is well worth the time to see any production they do. We really enjoyed the comedy and pacing of Noises Off!. It did get a little hysterical in the middle as it is written, but I think as they settle into the run, this will smooth out without losing the frantic pace that is supposed to be part of the backstage hilarity. It does run just about 2 ½ hours with two intermissions so plan accordingly. Also, if you go, I would leave younger children at home as there is quite a bit of double entendre, although this group has done well to not make it overtly cheap or tawdry just for laughs.
We really enjoyed Springville Playhouse’s Noises Off! and it is well worth the $10 ticket price. This would be a great date night or friends outing for anyone. Who doesn’t love to laugh out loud?
Springville Playhouse presents Noises Off by Michael Frayn Merit College Preparatory Academy, 1440 W Center St, Springville, UT 84663 Tickets: $10 general admission, $8 for students/seniors Sept 15-October 7 Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays 7:30 PM. Doors open at 7:00 PM Springville Playhouse Facebook Page