On Stage: 'Noises Off' at USCB Center for the Arts through April 14

features@islandpacket.comApril 10, 2013 

  • IF YOU GO

    WHAT: "Noises Off"

    WHERE: University of South Carolina Beaufort Center for the Arts, 801 Carteret St., Beaufort

    WHEN: 7:30 p.m. April 12 and 13; 3 p.m. April 14

    COST: $20 adults; $18 seniors; $15 students

    DETAILS: 843-521-4145

The plot: A second-rate British traveling theater company is putting on a third-rate British bedroom farce called "Nothing On," in which everything that could go wrong has.

The story behind the show: "Noises Off" is a classic. In fact, New York Times critic Frank Rich has said it is one of the funniest plays written in our lifetime, but one of the worst films. Right now a lot of British farces are seeing revivals on Broadway, in London and in regional theaters around the country. This play was chosen because the director, Gail Westerfield, saw a production of it in Denver in the late 1980s and has wanted to direct it ever since -- but she has never had a big enough venue for the large set till now.

Fun facts about the show: There's a "Real Live British Guy" in the play, according to Westerfield. Alan Purdy has helped with important dialect questions, such as the proper way to say "bathmat." Eileen Waite, who plays Dotty/Mrs. Clackett and lives in Sun City Hilton Head, directed a children's theater production of the play when she lived in New Jersey. Christine Grefe, who plays Belinda/Flavia, worked on tech in a production of "Noises Off" 20 years ago, and, like Westerfield, has been trying to do the show ever since.

Director's take: "I really love the humor in the play, which ranges from broad physical humor (pratfalls, pants that fall around ankles, and a balletic passing of a fire ax, for example) to verbal wit to silly visual puns," Westerfield said. "My own sense of humor was heavily influenced in my formative years by Peter Sellers and Monty Python from the UK and old Marx Brothers movies, so this is a blast for me and for anyone who likes that kind of comedy."

The coolest thing: "Even if broad physical comedy isn't your cup of tea (pun intended) there is so much else, including half-dressed ingènues and a two-story, seven-door revolving set you have to see to believe. It's never boring," said Westerfield.

Behind the scenes: "One of the actors, Michael Kane, came to the ensemble late as a replacement for another actor, and not only kills in his role as Tim, the beleaguered stage manager and understudy for a couple of the actors, he also helped put together the complicated set," according to Westerfield.

One last thing: "The costumes, by Louise Trask, are so great," Westerfield said. "One character, once Louise got to work on her costume, completely transformed into a character who was exactly like what I wanted (and who the actor wanted to be) but neither of us knew how to make it happen until Louise came along."

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