Beginning tonight, Friday, September 25th, Maui OnStage will be presenting the three act comedy Noises Off. Showing at the historic Iao Theater in Wailuku, Noises Off will have their performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm and Sunday matinees will be at 3pm until their last show on October 11th.
We were fortunate to be invited to watch the production’s final/technical/dress rehearsal performance Thursday night. Before we attended the show I wanted to find out what we were going to be sitting through for a few hours, so I did some quick research.
The play, written in 1982 by Michael Frayn, is a three-act comedy that revolves around the production and performance of a “play within a play”. Every single review I read described the play as a farce. I am not ashamed to admit to my readers that I had heard the word before and knew the idea of a farce, but had never really looked up the definition of the word.
a comic dramatic work using buffoonery and horseplay and typically including
crude characterization and ludicrously improbable situations.
So, now that we all know what a farce is, Noises Off is exactly that. It has buffoonery, horseplay and above all ludicrously improbable situations. The play is an amazing example of how timing is everything in comedy. With so many moving parts, the play always seems to be a split-second from failing at any given moment.
Act one takes place the night before the play is about to have its opening night performance. The characters, attempting to get through their final rehearsal, continually break character, miss their cues, have technical problems with the set, and painfully struggle through their performance. The director is at his wit’s end and is trying everything he can to get to the final line of the play.
Act two shows the cast and the production of the play weeks into their current tour. The second act takes place from the perspective of backstage, during a matinee performance. Things are not going too smoothly behind the curtain, but the show must go on. The timing during this second act is unbelievable. The actors are playing two different stories at the same time, acting as two different characters (the fake play characters, accents and all, then their “normal” personas behind the curtain) and the play is going on
Act three takes place during the final performances of the play. Shown from the perspective of being on stage and not behind, the play, is supposed to be a flawless performance of the same scene we, the viewer, saw during the first act. Things do not go well and improvisation becomes the key to surviving this final performance.
Maui OnStage has taken a play that is familiar to many (yours truly not included) and makes it their own. The cast has a few familiar faces from the Maui acting scene and they are fantastic as always, but this play is definitely a true group effort. Most plays have one or two seasoned veterans with some serious acting ability and you are riveted to everything they have to say or do as they carry the production on their shoulders. This ensemble cast did not have any weak links as far as I could tell and I found all the actors to be on their A game.
The set design in the theater is simply fantastic. I am always amazed to see what can be done with stage design and how a production seems to use every bit and piece of the stage and the props on it. Changing the stage from looking like the front of a set to the back of a set and back to the front of a set was done in a matter of moments during the three acts. The cast and crew all had a role in making the set work.
If you have time from now until October 11th, head to Wailuku and go see a performance of Noises Off at the historic Iao Theater. Be brave, don’t fear the theater. You can purchase tickets online through Maui OnStage. Don’t forget the sardines!