Did you ever wonder what it might be like behind the scenes of a theater production – what the audience never sees behind the polished performances?
Kicking off its 85th season, Community Players of Salisbury will present “Noises Off” on Nov. 5-7 at Wicomico High School Auditorium, giving audiences an opportunity to see just how chaotic it can get.
OK, maybe there’s a bit of exaggeration in the play.
OK, a lot of exaggeration.
But this comedy by Michael Frayn will keep everyone laughing as they take in some comic relief.
“Noises Off” presents a “play within a play” as the storyline takes us backstage as a fictional theater group rehearses and then performs a play. The English playwright was inspired by watching from backstage as one of his own creations was performed and finding the backstage chaos as entertaining as the storyline itself.
Shelbie Thompson, who plays the role of Brooke Ashton (who portrays Vickie in “Nothing On,” the play inside the production), said she is more accustomed to playing more serious roles.
“The most challenging part of ‘Noises Off’ is the pacing,” said Thompson. “With a comedy like this everything has to be precise in timing of entrances, exits, cues, lines and more, to land at the correct time.”
Brooke is a young, inexperienced actress who probably got the job because she “knows” the director. Brooke plays the role of Vickie in “Nothing On” who is the half-dressed love interest of Roger.
Roger is played by Garry Lejeune in “Noises Off,” the role of Garry is played by Matt Hatfield.
Yes, it is that confusing and convoluted.
In addition to playing dual roles in “Noises Off,” she also serves as publicity and social media director.
Sharon Benchoff is immediate past president of Players and producer of “Noises Off.”
“I believe ‘Noises Off’ is a great way to open our 85th season,” Benchoff said. “This is literally a play everyone will enjoy. The laughs come often and are belly laughs. The whole family can come and enjoy a live performance after being away from the theater for so long.”
Pete Evans plays the role of Frederick Fellowes, who plays the role of Phillip Brent, a well-off tax exile, in the “play within a play.”
“Frederick is constantly confused about why his character is doing what he’s doing at any given moment,” said Evans. “He’s also squeamish about violence to the point of getting nosebleeds at the mere mention.”
Benchoff said that although Players did pull off “A Streetcar Named Desire” in June, and everyone was thrilled then to be back on stage, she is a bit nervous.
“The costs of producing a play have not changed for Players,” she said. “We still have to pay the same royalties, set construction, facility rentals and so on. But our audience seating will be smaller due to our continued commitment to following Covid-19 safety guidelines.”
Although Community Players tries to keep ticket prices as low as possible, the organization does have to make a profit to produce the next play or musical, she explained.
“It is a fine line,” she said.
As for safety, Benchoff said one reason the Players Board of Directors chose “Noises Off” was for safety concerns. A musical production, for example, generally requires a large cast of 25 to 40 members, as well as a pit orchestra of up to 30 musicians. A larger stage crew is required to handle set changes.
However, “Noises Off” features a cast of nine actors, several of whom play dual roles because of the “play within a play.” The stage crew is smaller and there is no orchestra. Social distancing and masks are required by the venue.
“Players loves our audiences, cast, crew and production staff,” she said, “and want everyone to be as safe as possible so that we can continue to spend time together.”
As for the set, well, there’s a little secret.
“Most of the time, the set is a silent witness to the action of the play,” said Benchoff. “That is not true of ‘Noises Off.’ The set is a major player in the telling of the story.”
Prepare to be amazed by what happens during intermission, Benchoff said.
“The set is a really big deal,” she said, “but fortunately with Ken Johnson directing and designing the set, we have the talent to pull of this great piece of stagecraft.”
The only way to find out what that statement is about is to come see the play.
“I hope audiences come out to see ‘Noises Off’ and enjoy the show as much as we do,” said Thompson. “It has been a great experience working with such a talented cast of actors and a production team that cares so deeply for the show.”
“We can all use laughter in our lives,” said Benchoff.