Art Imitates Life in this Smashing British Comedy

Cole Reihing

The play within the play has never been as hilarious or precise as it it in Noises Off. It has been explored before, from The Mousetrap in Hamlet, Hannibal in Phantom of the Opera, to even the Kander and Ebb musical Curtains, which will also be put up by LaGrange College in the spring. 

However, Noises Off is the play behind the play. It is the story of a perfectly imperfect show, as captivating as it is hilarious, and, in all its ridiculousness, an uncanny parallel to the difficulty of actually putting up a show, for better or worse. 

Noises Off is a wacky look at a group of British actors, stage-managers, and their director as they desperately attempt to put up the farcical comedy Nothing On. As could be expected, everything that can go wrong, does. 

Act 1 showcases their final dress rehearsal , hours before the show opens, and exposes how frightfully under-rehearsed and unfinished their production is. Set pieces not working and bumbling actors having “postprandial snoozes” are but two of the problems an exasperated and frustrated director must attempt to get them through as they tip-toe closer and closer to opening night.

The second act is a performance midway through their tour, and their manic performance falls apart in front of the audience’s eyes. Though the second act contains almost no dialogue, a series of side-splitting slapstick moments build to a crescendo of comedy. The audience is left to roll and clamor for more.

The third act is a full performance of Nothing On. Emotionally and physically exhausted, the actors do their best to play their biggest and final performance with grace and poise, yet end up…well…you’ll have to see it to find out.

Noises Off presents an interesting challenge to its actors; while all of us play a character, the majority of us also have to play that character playing another character. Not only do we have to know the characters we play as “actors,” but these “actors” also play characters in Nothing On.

In my personal case, the charge is different; I play the director, Lloyd. My fictional job is directing actors, where, in real life, I’m just another actor being directed. However, as I sit in the house with the actual director, Professor Knoll, during rehearsals, I’ve noticed that life’s imitation of art is almost surreal. 

While our production of Noises Off is nowhere near the production mess of the farcical Nothing On, it still serves as an interesting funhouse mirror. While actresses in the play drop out of character to ask questions, the cast actually dropped out of character to do the same. Props were misplaced and door handles malfunctioned. These matters occur in every show to some extent. But the minor annoyances inherent in show business are exaggerated in Noises Off, magnified through the lens of art imitating life.

From an actor’s perspective, this show is a gift. Every rehearsal brings us closer not only as a company of actors, but closer to the characters we get to play. The laughs we share are full and genuine, and we’re so excited to share that with an audience.

Noises Off is a love letter to theatre. And if the goal of theatre is to reflect life as truthfully as possible, Noises Off soars, adding just a few more sardines, an unfortunate cactus, and an unforgettable sense of humor.

The show opens at Price Theatre on Wednesday, Oct. 16th at 7 pm. It also runs on the 17th and 19th at 7pm.. On Sunday the 20th, there will be a 2:30 matinee and a final show at 7:30 pm. Box office reservations can be made at priceboxoffice@lagrange.edu, or by calling 706-880-8080.

Cole Reihing is a junior Theatre Arts Performance Major from St. Marys, GA. He has been involved in several LaGrange College productions, including August: Osage County, Bedroom Farce, These Shining Lives, and more. He can be seen this week as Lloyd Dallas in Noises Off. Outside of the theatre, he is a member of Delta Tau Delta Fraternity, and is the president of IFC.

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