“Noises Off” gets rousing comic staging at Key West‘s Waterfront Playhouse

By Lucy Komisar

Here‘s a case in which it helps to pay attention to the playbill. Michael Frayn‘s 1982 classic play within a play, or in this case, a farce within a farce, gets a first rate production by Key West‘s Waterfront Playhouse under the deft hand of artistic director Danny Weathers.

The cast of the play, photo Larry Blackburn.

Even if you don‘t know the script, the opening play called “Nothing On” seems an odd disaster. Roger Tramplemain (Brandon Beach), a real estate agent is taking his girlfriend Vicki (a very good screaming- red-head Erin Mckenna) for a few days at a country house he is supposed to be renting out. The property owners Philip and Flavia Brent (David Black and Susannah Wells) are conveniently in Spain to clock resident days in order to cheat on British taxes. Vicki, who is always angularly posing, has the opportunity to prance around in her underwear. (Non-salacious attire is by Carmen Rodriguez).

Then the Brents sneak back. Doors open and bang shut as Vikki in her underwear seeks to elude them. Mrs. Clacker, the cockney maid (a terrific Joan O‘Dowd), runs around balancing a plate of sardines which you think have to be glued to the plate. At the wrong moment, a burglar (the wonderful Tony Konrath) climbs through a window.

Backstage carrying on, photo Larry Blackburn.

“Noises off” is a theatrical stage direction indicating that sounds are coming from offstage. And we find out soon enough, in the second act, what is going on there. And why the “actors” are destroying the “play” we just saw.

The play in effect is a series of jokes about the theater, based on the notion that what goes on backstage is even more interesting than what happens on. Especially when the one of the crew is in love with the director, who is sleeping with one of the actors; when everyone cooperates to keep the booze away from one of their number; and when wrong cues and pratfalls, forgotten lines that mangle the script and boisterous quips that spark it all coalesce in perfect timing that sometimes races, then collapses into a weird, quiet calm.

Getting back at the director of ‘Nothing On,’ photo Larry Blackburn.

The stage manager picks up a microphone and announces, “The curtain will rise in 2 minutes.” A few minutes later, someone else retrieves the mike and declares, “The curtain will rise in 3 minutes.” We see the exits and entrances, and watch the “actors” fight over scenes, upstaging each other. Things go more than awry. “I love a technical,” declares cynical, sarcastic director Lloyd Dallas (Matt Hollis Hulsey) who alternatively screams at the actors and supplies the insecure among them with outlandish motivations.

The result is a wonderfully satirical treatment of both the real actors’ world and the traditional classical farce. And both the real story and fake story highlight the human realities – desire, jealousy, betrayal — evident in both.

“Noises Off.” Written by Michael Frayn, directed by Danny Weathers. Waterfront Playhouse, 312 Wall Street, Key West, FL. (305) 294-5015.   Dec 16, 2014 to Jan 10, 2015. 1/22/15


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2 Responses to " “Noises Off” gets rousing comic staging at Key West‘s Waterfront Playhouse"

  1. Carmen Rodriguez   Jan 30, 2015 at 9:34 am

    Ah Thank you
    Non-salacious attire is by Carmen Rodriguez).

  2. John Clark   Jan 30, 2015 at 12:46 pm

    Just returned from a vacation in Key West, too late to catch this. It’s worth noting that the play was developed from Frayn’s 1970 farce THE TWO OF US, where just a couple of versatile actors play all the parts. He noticed that what went on offstage, with the rapid character and costume changes, was perhaps more fascinating than what was happening onstage.

    My then wife Lynn Redgrave played the female, and Richard Briers played the male. My attempt to cast it for a U.S. run was stymied by my seeming inability to find an American actor with the necessary versatility. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Two_of_Us_%28play%29 resulting in 3 actors.


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