Review: Comedic Timing is Spot On in Noises Off

Comedic Timing is Spot On in Noises Off

By Mindy Mateuszczyk

Perhaps Director Scott Ford said it best in his Director’s Notes, when he suggested Noises Off is a show best enjoyed by simply “letting it wash over you.”

Noises Off is not a show that will make you think deeply. It is not a show that addresses world problems or stands up for anything, except maybe a love of sardines. In fact, there is a tremendous amount of falling down that occurs throughout the show. Just the physical demands of the actors alone would exclude many a regular community theater participant from being capable of pulling off this show as seamlessly as this cast of nine did masterfully. Throw in some hefty timing requirements with props, comedic line delivery and a twisting and turning plot and suddenly you realize you are watching a group of extremely talented actors.

Kate Beahen sparkles as the dimwitted Brook Ashton (Vicki). Her character’s signature moves while acting as Vicki in the play within a play are hilarious. Neal Skoy as Garry LeJune (Roger) also turns in a phenomenal performance that serves to heighten the tension and frantic pace of the show remarkably.

Having had the good fortune to watch Corey Okonek (Selson Mowbray/Burglar), Matt McNabb (Tim Algood/Company Stage Manager) and Nick Menzhuber (Lloyd) in other shows both at Lyric and around the metro, it was a pleasure to see these top-notch actors in new and different roles bringing to life their characters in creative ways.

The rest of the cast is fantastic as well, each creating a unique persona for their “on-stage” and “off-stage” personalities.

Perhaps the most impressive moment in the show was when Act II closes and you realizes the entire act was done with two “shows” running simultaneously. The play within the play, Nothing On runs behind the set which you get a glimpse of through a large picture window in the set. The second storyline provides a close-up view of the goings on backstage. This portion of the show is executed with almost no dialogue and yet, you know exactly what has happened and how everyone feels about everyone else, which is rather complicated and comical as these characters’ relationships begin to unravel.

Noises Off is an uncommon three-act show with two intermissions but don’t let that scare you off. The show’s pace is quick and full of laughs. With a running time of about 2.5 hours, the need for two intermissions is due to a complete change of set twice. It is a quick change that simply reverses the backstage portion of the set to the viewing audience and then back again. Once again, Lyric Arts’ set designers have done an amazing job creating an interesting and solid set that in this case, is one of the most beat up and abused sets a show sees. Making it more challenging, there can be no “patches” or “ugly fixes” hidden on the backside of the set since it gets exposed during Act II.

Indeed, with its fast paced hijinx one simply must buckle up and hold on for the twisting and turning, often hysterical, ride that is Noises Off. I hope you enjoy the show!

A little bit about Mindy: Mindy Mateuszczyk is a journalist with the Minnesota Sun Press Newspapers and has been an active member of the metro area community theater both onstage and as an audience member for nearly a decade. Previously, Mateuszczyk has lived and worked in the Boston suburbs, southern California, Salt Lake City and upstate New York. She has studied film, photography, theater, public relations, communications and journalism.

Meet Kyler Chase who is Performing in Noises Off

Lyric Arts had a chance to interview Kyler Chase, who is performing as Frederick Fellowes  in Noises Off. Read on to hear what he has to say about his experience thus far. LA: Where are you originally from?

KC: I come from a far-away land known as Derby, Kansas.

LA:  Why did this particular play interest you?

KC: Noises Off just doesn’t stop. It has been one of my favorite shows since first seeing a production of it in high school at a theater conference. The timing, characters, and ensemble unity blew me away. It has been a dream to perform in the show ever since.

LA:  For those that are unfamiliar with Noises Off can you tell us about the show?

KC: The show itself is a play within a play. It centers on an acting company rehearsing and touring a British farce called Nothing On. Not only does the audience get to see the end result of their production, but also the backstage antics of a cast who aren’t all exactly the best of friends.

LA: Talk about the character that you play in Noises Off.  How have you developed this character?

KC: I play the role of Freddie who plays the role of Philip in Nothing On. He’s a fairly competent actor but can be a little dim when it comes to onstage motivations, personal relationships, and common sense. I’m really letting my everyday awkwardness shine through with this character. Many of my own nervous mannerisms make an appearance when Freddie gets flustered.

LA: Talk about your fellow cast. How do you see their characters developing? Any that you are particularly amazed at?

KC: My favorite part of theater is developing the bonds between fellow performers. Everyone in this cast is hysterical. There have been numerous times in rehearsal that we’ve just had to stop everything in order to regain composure after a cast member cracked us up.

LA: What are some of the most impressive elements of Noises Off?

KC: I think what will immediately shock the audience is the scope of the set. In a fast-paced farce like Noises Off, the set is a character in its own right. It is so much fun to rehearse on that I can’t help but know the audience is going to have an equally great time watching us.

LA: For those unfamiliar with a farce, can you explain what it is?

KC: Farce is all about big, ridiculous comedy. These are situations that probably wouldn’t happen in everyday life. Get ready for mistaken identities, door slamming, and a big, raucous finale.

LA: Why should people come and take a chance and see Noises Off?

KC: You’d be crazy if you didn’t! So much of this show requires perfect comedic timing and this cast nails every tiny moment.

LA: What is your favorite theater, movie, and TV comedy?

KC: For my favorite comedy on stage, I’ll have to say Urinetown: The Musical, I can quote Monty Python and the Holy Grail backwards and forwards, and I own more seasons of The Office than I know what to do with.

LA: Sum up Noise Off in 3 words?

KC: You’lllaugh tillyou cry.

LA: Please tell us a little bit about yourself?

KC: Most of my life’s history can be found in the collected works that chronicle my crime-fighting adventures (Batman comics, movies, TV cartoons, etc.). Other than that, my spare time is spent doing improv comedy, drawing, and doing my best to figure out you crazy Minnesotans. Duck, duck, gray duck? Seriously?

Meet Kate Beahen who is Performing in Noises Off

Lyric Arts had a chance to interview Kate Beahen, who is performing as Brooke Ashton  in Noises Off. Read on to hear what she has to say about her experience thus far. LA: Where are you originally from?

KB: Anoka, MN.  Happy to be performing in my hometown. 

LA:  Why did this particular play interest you?

KB: I was anxious to work with Scott Ford, I had heard such great things about him.  I was also ready to do a non-musical. It's scary not having my voice to depend on--having to trust myself as a comedic actor is hard, but rewarding. The show is truly brilliant. Well done, Mr. Frayn(Playwright), you have us all doubled over just trying to get through our scenes. 

LA:  For those that are unfamiliar with Noises Off can you tell us about the show?

KB: It's the hilarity that ensues when a group of truly-ridiculous actors attempt to put on a show with far too many doors, and inconvenient plates of sardines. Seen from every angle---slips, flubs, successes, underwear, secrets and the worst (best) timing in the world. 

LA: Talk about the character that you play in Noises Off.How have you developed this character?

KB: Brooke Ashton. Bless her heart. She's a beautiful bimbo.  Naive, hard-working, and the worst actress in town. Perhaps the country.  I'll just say world.  Brooke is that girl that no one wants to tell she should DEFINITELY quit her day job. Do anything else, Brooke, darling. May we suggest swim suit modeling?

I've been playing with a genuinely-delightful side of Brooke. I want her to be lovable. (So when she screws everything up, she doesn't get killed)

I prepare by zoning out in rehearsal, asking stupid questions and periodically taking my clothes off. 

LA: Talk about your fellow cast. How do you see their characters developing? Any that you are particularly amazed at?

KB: Where do I begin? Each and every one of my cast members are amazing. Impressive, creative, and fearless. Someone once told me that the key to being an incredible actor is fearlessness. We have that with our cast--all over the place. Be prepared. 

LA: What are some of the most impressive elements of Noises Off?

KB: That set! Two levels, twisting like Chubby Checker! Ufda!!  Way to go Todd (Set Designer) and Patrick (Technical Director)! And the costumes. Samantha Fromm Haddow has done an incredible job!

LA: For those unfamiliar with a farce, can you explain what it is?

KB: The comedy of impossible situations. Grand hilarity, unbelievable timing, extraordinary physicality and ridiculousness. 

LA: Why should people come and take a chance and see Noises Off?

KB: Everyone loves to laugh. You'll start laughing as soon as the play begins and probably won't stop laughing until the following weekend. No guarantees, you may chuckle for a month. The cast is new, fresh and brilliant. Scott has put together something Lyric Arts has never seem before. It will be unforgettable. 

LA: What is your favorite theater, movie, and TV comedy?  

KB: I learned everything I know about comedy from Lucille Ball and Arrested Development. Timing at its best. 

LA: Sum up Noise Off in 3 words?

KB: Dangerous hilarity abounding. 

LA: Please tell us a little bit about yourself

KB: I grew up in the Twin Cites, went to school for Music Theatre in Florida and lived in New York City for about two years. I'm usually funny on accident so it's probably best to not ask me to tell a joke, you might be disappointed. Just watch me try to accomplish a daily task and that alone might make you chuckle. I live in Minneapolis with my incredible boyfriend and I work for the Anoka Hennepin School District. 

I also want to say how much I believe in and support Lyric Arts. I have watched this company grow into the amazing theater that it has become and it warms my heart and excites me. Lyric Arts has a very bright future in the theater community here in the Twin Cities and I'm honored to be a part of that. 

Meet Autumn Sisson who is Performing in Noises Off

Lyric Arts had a chance to interview Autumn Sisson, who is performing as Poppy Norton-Taylor  in Noises Off. Read on to hear what she has to say about her experience thus far.

LA: Where are you originally from?

AS: I am originally from Coon Rapids.  I now live in Anoka, so after seeing plays here as a kid, I’m now on the stage, in my hometown too!

LA:  Why did this particular play interest you?

AS: I first heard about Noises Off at the season announcement for Lyric Arts.  After hearing that others were excited for the show, I read up on it, saw it, laughed, and thought I’d love to make such comedy myself.  Plus, the characters are so…characterized, you can do so much with them, and I love quirky characters.

LA:  For those that are unfamiliar with Noises Off can you tell us about the show?

AS: It’s a show about a show.  There are nine actors in the cast of Noises Off, six of which are actors putting on Nothing On, a hilarious show in itself.  Noises Off is about the run of Nothing On, starting with the “dress rehearsal,” a view backstage in the middle of the run, and the attempt near the finish. 

LA: Talk about the character that you play in Noises Off.  How have you developed this character?

AS: I play Poppy Norton-Taylor, who is the assistant stage manager to Nothing On.  Given this is her first job experience, she puts everything she can into gaining approval, maybe too much.  Of the group she is the youngest and least stable, similar to the runt of the litter.  Like I mentioned, I love quirky characters, and the character Poppy provides so much freedom, it’s great.

LA: Talk about your fellow cast. How do you see their characters developing? Any that you are particularly amazed at?

AS: From the very beginning I found it interesting how some had never seen the show and some had several experiences performing different characters before, and what each person had to offer to his/her character.  Everyone is really amazing.  Each person is finding new bits of comedy every night, and you can see what each bit adds to the progression of each character.

LA: What are some of the most impressive elements of Noises Off?

AS: It’s fabulous how every evening we can run the same act, laugh at the same jokes we’ve seen over and over, and it never gets old.   

LA: For those unfamiliar with a farce, can you explain what it is?

AS: Farce is a type of comedy involving a more exaggerated performance as well as slapstick comedy.  What’s great about Noises Off is that it contains the physical comedy, but it also has so many layers, both in language and actions, that carry throughout the play.

LA: Why should people come and take a chance and see Noises Off?

AS: You should come see Noises Off to make your day better.  Laughing is healthy for you, you know.

LA: What is your favorite theater, movie, and TV comedy?

AS: My favorite play has always been Little Shop of Horrors; I’ve loved it since I was a kid – I’m not really sure why.  As far as movies, I am definitely a fan of the animated movies, I love them all, Madagascar to be specific.  I don’t actually watch a ton of TV and do not yet have a favorite TV comedy.

LA: Sum up Noise Off in 3 words?

AS: Laugh out loud

LA: Please tell us a little bit about yourself?

AS: I am a 2011 AHS graduate and will be achieving my AFA in Theatre this spring from Anoka-Ramsey Community College.  During the day I work part time at Lily Pad Ceramics, as well as the ARCC bookstore, and when not working, family and friends have my time.  Other hobbies include, drawing, painting, photography, Photoshop, the likes. And I love cats.

Meet Neal Skoy who is Performing in Noises Off

Lyric Arts had a chance to interview Neal Skoy, who is performing as Garry Lejune  in Noises Off. Read on to hear what he has to say about his experience thus far.

LA: Where are you originally from?

NS:  Circle Pines/Lino Lakes. (About 25 minutes from Lyric Arts)

LA:  Why did this particular play interest you?

NS:  This is my favorite play of all time. And, no, I’m not just saying that! My two great passions in life are clowning and theater --especially slapstick. So, this play truly is a prefect fit. I have NEVER been in another show that has caused such riotous laughter. The kind of laughs that escape an audience’s gut --the LOUD kind. This whole show is a theater inside joke. It is impossible for me to not love this play!

LA:  For those that are unfamiliar with Noises Off can you tell us about the show?

NS:  It’s a farce about farce. Noises Off starts as a disaster and goes downhill from there. There is a group of actors throwing together, not only a production, but a TOURING  show --and the long run ahead for these poor souls is doomed. To add insult to injury, the type of show they are attempting to pull off is a Brittish Bedroom Farce, a specific type of comedy that relies HEAVILY on precision to be successful --or does it!? Doors will be slammed, in-company flings will flounder, cues might be missed, and violence will be caused! --And the beauty is, the audience gets the full experience; seeing the final rehearsal, a backstage of bedlam, and one of the final performances (a masterpiece of a train wreck!)

LA: Talk about the character that you play in Noises Off.  How have you developed this character?

NS:  I play Garry Lejune --who plays Roger in “Nothing On”. I first played this role at Anoka Ramsey. To me, Garry is a typical young actor with anger issues. Beneath his madness, though, Garry is a total puppy. That’s all I can say without giving too much away.

LA: Talk about your fellow cast. How do you see their characters developing? Any that you are particularly amazed at?

NS:  It has been a great joy to see my fellow cast mates breath life into these characters and make them their own. Rehearsal is a tremendous playground and laughter is our fuel. It’s an absolute blast to see this production take its own form. This being my 3rd production of Noises Off, it still amazes me how the exact same characters can be so different from show to show! Bottom line: these people are funny and the show will be fantastic.

LA: What are some of the most impressive elements of Noises Off?

NS:  This is a tech heavy show! Props are a nightmare and the set is a monster! On top of that, this is an extremely physical show. Any long run of this show should be blessed by a religious figure! BUT, aside from its complexity, I can say that this show is in capable hands.

LA: For those unfamiliar with a farce, can you explain what it is?

NS:  Farce was explained to me like this: “Think of those sequences in Scooby-Doo where they are running from door to door, hiding. Add mistaken identities and double entendres, now you’ve got farce.” Sex and Slapstick comedy. Who WOULDN’T want to see that!?

LA: Why should people come and take a chance and see Noises Off?

NS:  You will laugh. That’s all there is to it! Who doesn’t like a good laugh?! This show is a blast to watch --and you might be surprised to find yourself at the edge of your seat.

LA: What is your favorite theater, movie, and TV comedy?

NS:  I’m a huge Laurel and Hardy fan. I also like cartoons. --What do you expect? I’m a circus clown!

LA: Sum up Noise Off in 3 words?

NS:  Theater. Disaster. Comedy.

LA: Please tell us a little bit about yourself?

NS:  As stated above, I am a circus clown when I’m not in a theater production. I joined Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus right out of high school and traveled with them for two years. I came home to go back to school while I was still young --went to Anoka Ramsey Community College. It was there that I met Scott Ford. The rest is history.

Meet Corey Okonek who is Performing in Noises Off

Lyric Arts had a chance to interview Corey Okonek, who is performing as Selsdon Mowbray  in Noises Off. Read on to hear what he has to say about his experience thus far!

LA: Where are you originally from? 

CO: I grew up in Spooner, Wisconsin.

LA:  Why did this particular play interest you? 

CO: I played Lloyd 4 or 5 years ago and it is such a fun show, I had to audition for it again.

LA:  For those that are unfamiliar with Noises Off can you tell us about the show? 

CO: Noises Off is a show about a troupe of actors performing in a play called Nothing On.  The show takes the audience from their last rehearsal, through the run of the show and the things that happen in between.

LA: Talk about the character that you play in Noises Off.  How have you developed this character? 

CO: I play Selsdon Mowbray.  Selsdon is a trained Shakespearean actor who has been on the stage for over 60 years.  Selsdon is a lovable character w/a tendency to wander off w/a bottle if given the chance.

LA: Talk about your fellow cast. How do you see their characters developing? Any that you are particularly amazed at? 

CO:I don't know where to begin.  It's is so much fun to see each of the characters coming to life (especially since half the cast have 2, their Noises Off character and their Nothing On character).  Each and everyone of the cast members amazes me with their talent.

LA: What are some of the most impressive elements of Noises Off? 

CO: First and foremost the talent of the cast that Scott (Director) has gathered.  Second would be the technical aspects of the show and the fantastic set that Patrick and his crew have created.

LA: For those unfamiliar with a farce, can you explain what it is? 

CO: A farce is a comedy that takes silliness to the extreme.

LA: Why should people come and take a chance and see Noises Off

CO: It is going to be a show that will make your face hurt from laughing.

LA: What is your favorite theater, movie, and TV comedy? 

CO: For movies, it’s probably a toss up between Animal House and The Princess Bride for TV it has to be The Big Bang Theory.

LA: Sum up Noise Off in 3 words? 

CO:  Timing, timing, timing.

LA: Please tell us a little bit about yourself? 

CO: I grew up in a little town in northern Wisconsin where I met my high-school sweetheart.  I've been married to that same wonderful woman for the past 33 years.  We've lived in the Twin Cities for the past 30+ years where we raised two great kids.  We've been empty nesters for the past 3 years and have 2 beautiful grand-kids, a 10 year old grandson and a 16 month old granddaughter.

Meet Nick Menzhuber who is performing in Noises Off

Lyric Arts had a chance to interview Nick Menzhuber, who is performing as Lloyd Dallas in Noises Off. Read on to hear what he has to say about his experience thus far! LA: Where are you originally from?  

NM: I grew up in St. Joseph, MN (St. Cloud area).  I moved to the cities after college at the University of Minnesota, Morris and now live in Minneapolis. 

LA:  Why did this particular play interest you?

NM: I made up my mind to audition for this show the moment it was announced.  I knew that every role in the show was hilarious and challenging and I knew that I love working at Lyric Arts, so I was immediately sold.  Every actor who’s seen Noises Off really, really wants to perform in it because it is so funny and it’s such a collaborative, ensemble-style show.  So I’m grateful to Lyric Arts for including it in this season and really thankful that I get to be a part of it; it’s one more show I can check off of my bucket list.

LA:  For those that are unfamiliar with Noises Off can you tell us about the show?

NM: Noises Off is a play within a play which follows a theater company through three renditions of Act One in a show called Nothing On: once the night before they open, then during a performance as seen from backstage, and finally a performance at the end of the show’s run which is kind of a disaster.  It’s very fast-paced and very funny.

LA: Talk about the character that you play in Noises Off.  How have you developed this character?

NM: I play Lloyd Dallas, who is the director of Nothing On, the play within the play.  Lloyd is a bit of a jerk; he sees himself as an innocent victim of the stupidity and incompetence of others, and takes no responsibility as the director for any of the problems with his show.  As a result, he says terrible things to the cast and crew of Nothing On.  It’s a fun sort of character to play around with because he has no filter for meanness between his brain and his mouth.  I think everyone’s had times when they’ve felt like really tearing someone apart publicly; most of us restrain ourselves because we are functioning members of society.  It’s fun to let loose.  It’s like the Woody Allen version of “Hulking out.” 

LA: Talk about your fellow cast. How do you see their characters developing? Any that you are particularly amazed at?

NM: The rest of the cast is really good; this is one of those shows where I look around and don’t see a weak link, so I begin to worry it might be me!  It would be hard to pick out one person – everyone’s had me cracking up in rehearsal, and I feel like I’ve got something to learn from each member of the cast.  This show is such a team effort – it has to be.  If we’re successful, it will be thanks to everybody. 

LA: What are some of the most impressive elements of Noises Off?

NM: Technically, the set is very impressive.  The show requires a fairly elaborate set that revolves 180 degrees for Act Two.  That’s quite a trick, and I think it will be a real treat for the audience. 

From a performance standpoint, what I hope will be impressive is the pace and comic timing and just how stuffed with laughs the script is. 

LA: For those unfamiliar with a farce, can you explain what it is?

NM: Generally, a farce is not trying to leave you with questions about the human condition.  A farce is just trying to make you laugh as much as possible.  A lot of times that includes characters behaving in a way that normal people would not.  I think Noises Off is especially brilliant in this aspect, because when you’re dealing with actors and directors and such as characters, there’s a different definition of “normal.”  Everyone’s a bit “off” in their own way.  And as the saying goes, anything can happen in live theater. 

LA: Why should people come and take a chance and see Noises Off?

NM: Because this show is expressly designed to be a crowd-pleaser.  Hearts will break!  Pants will fall!  Hijinks will ensue!

LA: What is your favorite theater, movie, and TV comedy?

NM: My favorite theatrical comedy is Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, which some would say doesn’t even qualify as a comedy since it ends badly (sorry, spoilers….but it’s in the title). My favorite movie comedy, hands down, is Ghostbusters.  And my favorite TV show is The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. 

LA: Sum up Noises Off in 3 words?

NM: Funny, funny, funny.

LA: Please tell us a little bit about yourself?

NM: My day job is in Financial Services.  I’m married and have a two-year old son, with a daughter on the way!  I enjoy geeky hobbies.  I’m a member of Lyric Arts’ Actors Council and Chameleon Theatre Circle’s Board of Directors.  My favorite Beatle is George. 

Evolution of a Set: Day 2

Today we are putting together the platforms to create one stage unit. Scenic Designer, Todd Edwards is her helping us today. I must saw our volunteer crew (Cathy, Bob, Wally, and David) have been outstanding this week. No only have they put on 60 wheels on, but did all the wall sheeting, built the front and back staircases, and connected the platforms, they did this all while Patrick is on vacation. Great job scene shop volunteers!