Noises off, laughter on.
The Clarence Brown Theatre's production of "Noises Off," Michael Frayn's delightfully chaotic farce, had audience members struggling to catch their breath between shrieks of amusement.
The play itself is somewhat of a play within a play that follows a theatre troupe through the course of its own show, "Nothing On." As the audience watches the troupe's show unfold from the final rehearsal before opening night to the last leg of the show's run, they receive a glimpse of the human side of theatre – including cast relationships, jealousy, anger, heartbreak and the occasional plate of sardines.
Calvin MacLean, producing artistic director of "Noises Off" and head of the UT Theatre Department, said he believes the show's farcical nature lends itself well to audiences.
"Farce is about outlandish situations and it makes people look their silliest – at their most ridiculous – and we laugh at most of the things they do to get themselves in and out of trouble," MacLean said. "It's a good belly laugh at the expense of somebody else — a fictional character — and it makes us a little relieved that our lives are not quite so ridiculous or quite so difficult."
To fully grasp the hilarity of the pandemonium going on backstage, it helps to have experienced the madness first-hand. Although there is a target toward people of the theatre, the general audience can also appreciate the comicality in the chaos.
"Noises Off" features a variety of characters, all with their unique quirks and ticks that contribute to the progress of the plot while intensifying the humor.
Erin Breeding, a regular at the Clarence Brown Theatre, said she enjoyed the show and its humor.
"I thought it got progressively funnier," Breeding said.
The cast developed the dynamic between characters and then modified it to accommodate changes in plot circumstance. The play within the play, "Nothing On," calls for an unusually great amount of entrances and exits, and the cast handled them with impeccable timing — unless the script called for an actor to purposefully miss a cue because he was too busy bludgeoning his co-star with a prickly cactus.
The success or failure of this demanding script relies heavily upon whether or not the cast can deliver their lines with perfect comedic timing, and this particular ensemble did not disappoint.
The costuming and set design — spearheaded by Marianne Custer and Christopher Pickart — allowed the actors to further immerse themselves into their characters without worrying about external factors affecting the duo's performance.
MacLean concluded that the production achieves its cathartic objective and leaves the audience feeling better about their own hectic lives.
"It's pretty darn funny," MacLean said. "At the end, everybody has a great time, everybody feels good about being alive and about how wonderful performance in the theater is, and it makes us feel a little better able to handle chaos in our own lives."
"Noises Off" will be at the Clarence Brown Theatre for the next two weeks. For show times, tickets and for more information click here.