There are slamming doors, mistaken identities, a half-naked ingénue, dropped trousers and pratfalls aplenty in the classical British farce, “Noises Off,” presented by the Beaufort Theatre Company at USCB Center for the Arts in Beaufort on April 6 and 7, and again on April 12, 13 and 14.
Written by Michael Frayn and opening in London in 1982, the play has since been entertaining audiences all over the world and is, as reviewed in the New York Times, “A spectacularly funny, peerless backstage farce. This dizzy, well-known romp is a festival of delirium.”
Offstage turmoil, onstage bedlam
Gail Westerfield directs the manic menagerie of itinerant actors rehearsing and then performing a dismal flop of a British sex farce called “Nothing’s On.” A love triangle between the director, the ingénue actress and the assistant stage manager who is also her understudy leads to deteriorating personal relationships among the cast which causes offstage turmoil and onstage bedlam. The title is taken from the theatrical stage direction meaning “sounds that originate offstage.”
Gail, who directed the recent successful production of “Love, Loss, and What I Wore” last month at USCB Center for the Arts, is a lifelong fan of British comedy and comedians. She calls “Noises Off” her “dream project,” explaining that, “Monty Python, Peter Sellers and our own Marx Brothers really formed my sense of humor. I love witty puns, double entendre and the exaggeration of characters in absurd situations.”
Disaster unfolds in three acts
The three act play begins at a late night final rehearsal, when egos, exhaustion and a lack of talent combine to create hilarious chaos. In the second act halfway through the play’s run, the set “flips” to allow the audience to see what goes on backstage as everything that could go wrong, has. The final act is on stage for the combative and exhausted company’s final performance of its 12-week tour. Actors forget their lines and improvise, shrieks and sounds of falling are heard from backstage, and the play collapses into comical catastrophe.
Romping through this British bedroom farce are seasoned actors from Beaufort, Sun City, Okatie and Ridgeland. Alan Purdy plays the frustrated and randy director, Lloyd Dallas, and his English accent is the real thing. Born in Britain, he moved from Canada to Bluffton in 1996. Joellen Hirschey plays ingénue Brooke Ashton, whose character Vicki spends most of the play clad only in a corset, garter belt and stockings on her 5’ 9” frame. Joellen lives in Beaufort.
Poppy Norton-Taylor is the put-upon assistant stage manager who might envy Brooke, her rival for Lloyd’s affections, but you can’t count her out yet. She is played by Beaufort resident Shawn Sproatt. The part of Dottie Otley, a fading comedic grande dame with an eye for younger men, is played by Sun City resident Elieen Waite. Dottie adds a lot to the chaos with her forgotten lines and on-stage confusion. Jason Marion plays Garry Lejeune, an arrogant and inarticulate actor with a violent jealous streak. Jason lives in Beaufort.
Freddy Fellowes is an overly apologetic and not-to-bright actor played by Beaufort native Eddy Watson. He constantly questions Lloyd’s directions, usually with a comb in his hand or his pants down around his ankles. Christine Grefe of Ridgeland plays Belinda Blair, a cheerful, somewhat gossipy character who knows everyone’s business but may not be as straight-laced as she seems.
Benji Morgan plays the boozy, aging actor Selsdon Mowbray, whose best days on the stage are far behind him. His bottles are stashed all over the set and he is constantly disappearing. Benji lives in Okatie. Tim Allgood, the over-worked stage manager for the bomb of a play, “Nothing On,” is played by Beaufort resident Dave Helmer. Sleep-deprived Tim must follow every order from Lloyd, no matter how bizarre.
HELP Of Beaufort to benefit
Theater attendees are asked to bring a donation of non-perishable food to benefit HELP of Beaufort, a faith-based, nonprofit, volunteer organization.
Performances are at USCB Center for the Arts Theatre at 801 Carteret Street on April 6, 12 and 13 at 7:30 p.m. and April 7 and 14 at 3:00 p.m. Adults $20; Seniors $18; Students $15. The Box Office is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays and one hour prior to curtain. Call 843-521-4145.