By Angela Dell
I made a last minute dash to the SCERA to see their latest production, Noises Off!. I admit, I was unprepared for this show in every way. You see, maybe I was late to the party. Maybe I’m just “not with it” when it comes to theater stuff (even though I love participating in shows.) But, I admit, I had never seen the play. I knew it was a comedy. I knew it was about a play within a play. That’s it. Even tonight, when I confessed I had never seen the show before to the folks sitting around me, a few of them said, “Really?” So here I was, a naïve, unwitting participant, asked to cover for a reviewer and see this show that was happening just up the street from me.
Here’s what I have to say: Noises Off!, produced by the SCERA Indoor Theater in Orem, was the show that made me ugly laugh in public amongst nobody but strangers for the first time in all of my adult years. I couldn’t help it–this show is hilarious. There was a point where I was taking a drink of my Coke and realized it was a mistake because I was pretty sure I was either going to inhale it or it was going to come out my nose, I was laughing that LOL hard. My throat hurts from laughing as I write this review. You know how people say their sides are sore from laughing. The struggle is real, friends.
Noises Off! follows a small company of actors who are putting on a touring production called Nothing On!. You watch the director struggle to get through their first technical rehearsal before they have a full-dress rehearsal and then go on tour. You watch the actors complicate their lives with relationships with each other. You watch the stage manager and her assistant stage manager struggle to keep the show together. You watch the show crumble because the actors and director have just about completely given up and are barely hanging by a thread.
The real director of the show, Chase Ramsey (who is soon to move to CA full-time and will be sorely missed in Utah theater) clearly worked incredibly hard to get the timing absolutely perfect for his actors. The pace never feels slow or dragging, and the blocking is spot on to create the different type of levels needed to make the show visually interesting and engaging. I was never bored and never wondered once how much longer the show had. The director in the show, Lloyd Dallas (Rex Kocherhans) does a marvelous job channeling the directors we all know, love, and loathe. He is both validating and condescending. The audience can’t help but roll their eyes as well as feel a little sorry for him that his production is falling apart. Dotty Otley (Delayne Bluth Dayton) is the first one onstage and it’s not until we hear the difference in her dialect that we realize she’s onstage as part of the play within the play. Bluth Dayton’s charm comes through in her character, which makes her completely relatable. We see her struggle with stage directions in ways all actors have when putting a play together. Her dialect is absolutely on par and the times she chooses to use it and not use it are completely appropriate and help tell the story of this wacky production. David Paul Smith completely commits to his character, Garry Lejeune. His physical choices add a very dramatic comedy to the situations he gets himself into that keeps the audience’s eyes on him whenever he’s on-stage. Brittni Bills Smith plays Brooke Ashton, the tart the director is “secretly” involved with. Watching her power through her lines as Vicki while her scene partner is worrying about other things is charming and hilarious. We all know that actor that is more concerned with getting their lines out that they just power through even though their scene partner isn’t quite caught up to where they are. She plays it so sincerely and endearingly that we all love her just a little more for it. Janessa Ramsey plays the stage manager, Poppy, and does a fantastic job playing the patient, sensitive stage manager we all pray for when putting together a production. Clearly, she’s been in a few productions before and knows the pain some of these stage managers go through. Shawn M. Mortensen plays actor Frederick Fellowes, the actor that always seems to make rehearsal last an eternity by nitpicking the play to pieces. Mortensen delivers his lines sincerely and commits to his character choices to create a sweet and sensitive character that is easy to love. Shannon Follette plays Belinda Blair, the cast member that seems to know everyone’s business and just wants everyone to feel loved and important. Her devotion to the play comes through with her ability to stay in character, even when things get hard. Because of that, her comedic timing is spot on. Zack Elzy plays Tim Allgood, the frantic assistant stage manager who seems to visually struggle the most with the cast. His vocal and physical comedy are perfection. I’m impressed that with the rather spectacular amount of shouting he does, he has a voice at all at the end of the night. Last, but not least, Robert Holcombe plays the older, drunk actor that is not quite mentally there with the rest of the cast members. In the show, he has a spry energy that keeps the audience engaged whenever he’s on. He’s a very warm, charismatic actor that plays a very dilapidated, uninspiring actor, which takes real talent.
I mention each of these actors separately with their individual talents, but they work so well as an ensemble that it was truly hard to find individual things to say about them. They all played off each other quickly and comfortably. All of their physical choices were made so meaningfully and in time with each other, it was like watching a hilarious and well-coordinated dance. Their characters interacted with each other so sincerely, it felt natural watching them transition from their character in Noises Off! to their character in Nothing On!. They were all a pleasure to watch.
Cole McClure’s set is so simple and well-organized that we all knew exactly where everything was. It makes it all about the actors and what they are doing. If there were more color on set or on the walls or in the furniture, it would have made the show feel too busy and stressful, instead of focusing on the comedy of the situations. His design is flawless and clean. Deborah Bowman’s costume design is fitting for each of the characters and adds a comfortable variety to the stage that also allows for the words and actions of the play to speak for themselves instead of making a bold statement to distract us from what is happening on-stage.
The SCERA Indoor Theater is a conveniently located playhouse. It is right off of State Street in Orem, which makes it familiar and visible, and the parking is conveniently placed behind the theater and to the north of 750 S right next to the swimming pool. They also have a drop off area for those who need it and have ramps for those with wheelchairs or struggle with stairs. Their concessions are reasonably priced and available throughout the play and during both intermissions. They are a clean and accommodating playhouse.
I was told that the SCERA doesn’t often produce straight plays and that Noises Off! was a sort of test run to see how well-received plays would be at the SCERA. If this is the caliber of play they produce when it comes to a non-musical, I hope they continue to explore and introduce more plays to this part of Utah Valley. It was a pleasure I wish I could have shared with more of my friends and family. Go see Noises Off! at the SCERA Indoor Theater in Orem before it’s too late!
SCERA presents Noises Off! by Michael Frayn SCERA Indoor Theater 745 S State St, Orem, Utah 84058 September 15–October 7 Mondays, Thursdays-Saturdays 7:30 PM Tickets $14 Adults; $12 Children/Seniors Contact: 801-225-ARTS SCERA Facebook Page SCERA’s Noises Off! Facebook Event