February 01, 2018 3:00PM
Directed by Gil Cooper, "Noises Off" runs Feb. 22-25 in the Miller Theatre at the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts.
Cooper is known to his students for choosing challenging material; his last show, "Frankenstein," required his cast and crew to take lessons in stage combat and heavy-duty prosthetic makeup techniques.
This production, which has been called by critics one of the funniest farces ever, requires his cast to learn British accents, to portray characters who are portraying characters, and to perform the same act three times — each from different vantage points.
That also means Scenic Designer Linden Little had to design and build a massive, two-story set with multiple entry and exit points that can be flipped 180 degrees on a small-scale stage. He began before Christmas.
"Noises Off is probably the most difficult show I have ever had the pleasure to be cast in," said Austin VanBecelaere, who has been in many. "It demands precision in every aspect of the show. It’s supposed to look like absolute chaos and that chaos looks real when the actors are perfectly on time. If I’m even a second off the whole show suffers."
"My character, Frederick, a television actor, has two different characters to portray in the play within a play," VanBecelaere said. "In total I have three characters that I switch between both physically and vocally. That has forced me to push my limits and expand my range as an actor."
The premise of the show, by noted playwright Michael Frayn, hinges on a cast of second-rate British touring actors rehearsing and performing a flop of a show called Nothing's On in a 12-week run.
"It's a play within a play," Cooper said.
In the first act, the audience will see the cast and crew of Nothing On valiantly stumbling their way through final dress rehearsal. In the second act, it is three weeks later and the show is on the road, but the action is flipped – literally: the set is flipped around to give the audience the comic backstage view of the same moment in time.
The final act transports the audience nine weeks forward as an audience member of Nothing On’s final performance. Noises Off is a manic menagerie of hilarious missteps, dropped lines, love triangles, slamming doors, missed cues, and way too many sardines.
"It's a theatrical experience unlike any other," said Jaley Hoyt, who plays the role of Poppy. "Everyone has to be aware of everyone else, at all times. It presents an ensemble challenge that none of us have ever really had before. The timing in this show is impeccable, and there is something going on at all times to the point that an audience member would have to see it more than once in order to catch everything."
"It is a huge collaborative endeavor, and we can't wait for people to come see it."
Cooper, along with critics, say the farce is one of theater's most beloved comedies.
“The sharp wit, slapstick, great characters, and willingness to poke fun at theater itself, makes it a fan favorite," he said.
The cast of nine also includes PSU stage veterans Curtis Wilkins and Stephen Reida; rising talents Erika Moore, Mariana Rosales, and Sarah Potter; and PSU alumni Duke Walter and Tony Sanchez.
The design team includes Costume Designer Lisa Quinteros. The stage management team is led by Jade Provence. An extraordinary number of props are under the direction of Ila Phelps.
Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 22-24, and 2 p.m. Feb. 24-25. Tickets are $12 for the general public, $7 for those under 17 or over 64, and free to all PSU students, faculty, and staff with a valid PSU photo I.D.
Tickets may be purchased through the PSU Ticket Office location, by phone at 620-235-4796, or online at http://www.pittstate.edu/office/tickets/. Tickets may also be purchased at the Miller Theater starting approximately 30 minutes before each performance.
To learn more about PSU's Theatre program in the Department of Communication, visit http://www.pittstate.edu/department/communication/index.dot