‘Noises Off’ shows another side of a farce

By Lorraine Spencer

The comedy opens Friday at Youngstown Playhouse.

In 1970, playwright Michael Frayn watched a performance of one of his plays from the wings of the stage. According to the playwright, “It was funnier from behind than in front and I thought that one day I must write a farce from behind.”

From this inspiration came “Noises Off,” which opens in its latest incarnation Friday at the Youngstown Playhouse.

“Noises Off” is a play about people performing a play. Director Shawn Lockaton said directing the comedy is like directing two plays at once.

For the first-time director, the complex play was more than he expected, but worth every minute.

“It’s overwhelming,” he said. “There’s so much space to fill. The script is very intricate.”

During the first act, the audience watches the final dress rehearsal of the play, “Nothing On,” which does not go smoothly. In the second act, the play is seen from backstage, providing a view of the relationships of the cast and crew. In Act Three, the audience watches from the front again as the company falls apart.

“Noises Off” is an inherently complicated play. Most of the actors play actors who are playing a role. Sometimes they act as their characters, and sometimes they act as their characters acting. Follow that?

The cast and crew also all have intertwined personal lives, which lead to shenanigans both on and off stage. The result, of course, is a hilarious farce.

The stage itself is also a complicated apparatus. Set designer Jim Lybarger created a two-story interior set with eight working doors that are utilized “hundreds of times” throughout the play, said Lockaton. To be even more complex, the set is turned around during intermission so the audience can view Act Two from “backstage,” then around again for Act Three. Lybarger constructed the back of the set to be elaborate and realistic so the audience would have an understanding of what backstage is really like.

Lockaton said the play is an interactive experience. The audience becomes immersed in the goings-on of the cast and crew.

Through the ridiculous mishaps of the outrageous characters, the audience gets an idea of what it is like to be a part of the plays they watch, a new perspective they may not have thought about.

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