Last Chance to see “Noises Off” at Poteet

Anna Holloway Modified: October 15, 2013 at 2:45 pm •  Published: October 15, 2013

The British stage farce “Noises Off” by Michael Frayn is famous among theatre folk for its hilarious send-up of the life of working actors and stage managers. It’s among the most produced shows in popular theatre and among the hardest to produce well. It’s very difficult to do a good job at doing really bad theatre—but that’s where the funny is found in “Noises Off.”
Poteet Theatre’s production, directed by Jamie Brewster, rises to the challenge very well. The first act is the slowest, because it has to set up the situation and introduce all the characters. Brewster’s use of the house handles this very well; the audience starts out as “stage dressing” for a rehearsal of the fictional play “Nothing On” which is about to open and go on regional tour in Britain. The director, played with supercilious and libidinous frustration by Don Taylor, is struggling with an absentminded leading lady (Jane Hall) who is having an affair with a jealous leading man (Craig Pruitt); a rather dim second lead (Rob May); a vacant ingénue (Holly McNatt); a drunk (James Tyra); and one sane, sensible cast member (Michelle Swink). Rounding out the craziness are the stage manager (A’Mari Rocheleau) and the technical manager (Dalton Thomas).
All the performances were clear and clever presentations of the very different characters and caricatures that Frayn has interwoven into the story of a farce gone bad. The entire second act takes place backstage, while the first and third take place “on” stage, which requires the set to be rotated between the acts. The crashingly funny third act follows clearly from the second and brings the show to a rousing conclusion.
The intense physical comedy of the second act—probably one of the most physically and mentally demanding pieces of theatre ever constructed—was beautiful and accurate. Pruitt’s pratfalls in particular were precisely—and perhaps painfully—performed.  Swink’s performance as Belinda, the one fairly stable member of the company, is a standout, in part because it’s easily overlooked. Everyone else gets to fly, while her character is often either tossing or catching. Trapeze artists can’t work without that role, and neither can farce.  One particularly clever addition to the program is a “playbill” for the play the company is supposedly performing. This adds tremendously to the show, since it adds to our understanding of the characters.
One minor flaw in this production is the unevenness of the accents. The play calls for a range of British English—some characters have to speak in more than one dialect—and the cast as a whole does not deliver consistently. It should not seriously distract most American audiences from enjoying the show.
“Noises Off” opened at the Poteet Theatre September 27 and runs through October 20. Shows are Thursday-Saturday evenings at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday afternoons at 3:00 p.m. with a running time of about 2.5 hours including two intermissions. The theatre is located in St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, 222 NW 15th Street, with parking at 16th and Robinson in Oklahoma City. Tickets can be reserved at 405.609.1023 or at poteettheatre.com.