Apr 3, 2014

[Theater] Noises Off (Repertory Philippines)

It doesn't feel like too long ago I took the time to write a review of the movie version of Noises Off, which was a movie that both my partner Tobie and I enjoyed a lot even before we met one another. And when we found out that we both shared an appreciation of it, we made the time to watch it again. It was a pretty funny movie with a quirky cast that may not have been perfect, but it was still quite endearing.

Fast-forward to the end of 2013 when Repertory Philippines announced that they were stating a production of the Noises Off play that the movie had been based on. This was in fact the primary reason that we had opted to get Year Passes for all of Repertory's shows this year - to see how they'd manage to pull off this production. And given how we had enjoyed the movie, it was a bit of a tricky thing since it was very well possible that we might have too high expectations for the show and thus making disappointment almost inevitable.

But we had an even better result - we absolutely loved the production!

Synopsis: Noises Off is a play written by Michael Fray that is pretty much a farce set during the production of a farce -  a comedy that focuses on the behind-the-scenes action, in a manner of speaking. This Repertory Philippines production was of course staged at the Greenbelt 1 OnStage theater. It was directed by Miguel Faustmann and ran from March 28 - April 27, 2014.

The play covers a story told in three acts. The first act consists of the dress rehearsal of the fictional farce, Nothing On, as directed by Llyod Dallas (Chinggoy Alonso). As the cast seems to struggle through the confusing lines, props and comedically timed entrances and exits, we also learn more and more about their individual quirks and even some of the relationships within the cast itself. Dotty (Frances Makil Ignacio) is apparently dating Garry (Lorenz Martinez), while the director Lloyd is somehow involved with the horrible actress Brooke (Carla Guevara-Laforteza).

In sharp contrast, the second act takes place backstage at one of the show's actual productions. Here we find out that things have started to deteriorate as Dotty and Garry have had a falling out somehow because of the cast member who is practically allergic to violence of any kind, Frederick Fellowes (Gerard Sison). At the same time, Brooke seems to determined to leave the touring production and thus Lloyd has come in secret in the hopes of convincing her to stay on. And the third and final act is practically sheer bedlam.

The joy of this play is in the effective use of running gags - something I've commented on in terms of British television comedies. And the three act structure of this production really finds its humor as it starts to vary from the original flow of the production due to the various complications created by the cast. Throw in the various character quirks like Frederick's tendency to have a noise bleed when he sees violence or how Brooke steadfastly continues with her lines regardless of what everyone else is doing and any changes to the scenes can have slightly predictable and yet still hilarious results.

I really enjoyed the set that they created for this production. At first it seemed pretty straightforward given the house and the second level with additional doors leading to a bathroom, a closet, a bedroom, and the attic. The real game-changers it the second half of the play takes us backstage for where the real drama is. If you don't leave the theater during the first 10-minute intermission, you'll actually get to witness how the stage crew pack up most of the set pieces and literally turn the entire house around to reveal a new backstage set. It was a wonderfully clever change and I was sort of worried if it would just be a clever gimmick.

But thankfully it wasn't, and this crazy cast was able to execute this farce quite splendidly. Each actor was pretty much able to make the most of their character concept and really pushed things to their full comedic effect. More important than their individual timing or their ability to deliver their lines on point the ability of the ensemble to try work together and play off one another's comedic cues was just stellar and really helped define the tone of this production. And the play has a great mix of both witty one-liners and pure slapstick humor that really had the audience laughing.

And all this is considering that the last Repertory Philippines attempt at a farce that I watched, Boeing Boeing, had been decent but not exceptional. And The 39 Steps was only passably funny. This was just worlds away from those plays - exponentially better in fact. And I'm glad that they managed to do justice to this truly comical work.

Noises Off is a great play with a wonderful cast and an overall production that just kills it. I actually wouldn't mind watching it again and this play alone makes my Year Pass ticket totally worth it. Thus I'm happy to rate this as a full 5 plates of sardines out of a possible 5.

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