The Magic Joy of Laughing with Strangers

By Deanna Walz

Noises Off, The Stage Theater, Saturday April 30, 2022 7:30PM

There’s something magical about sitting in a theater and laughing with strangers. Not knowing what to expect and delighting in the thrill of discovering the jokes together. 

The audience of Noises Off at The Stage Theater in Hickman discovered that magic Saturday night during the opening night performance. This production has been five months in the making. Originally scheduled to run in February, it was postponed to the spring because of COVID challenges and cast conflicts. Even the original opening night was rescheduled because of the threat of severe weather.

Noises Off is an incredibly challenging show because of its rhythm and timing. It’s a farce within a farce with everything going wrong. On purpose. Which makes it hard to review, because the more it’s bad, the more it’s good. 

The show begins with the actors in the middle of their dress rehearsal for the show that opens in just a few hours. Befuddled Mrs. Clackett, played with great energy by Amy Koepke, can’t remember her lines or her stage directions much to the frustration of “Director,” Lloyd Dallas played by Paul Durban. When Garry LeJeune and Brooke Aston slink onstage played by Mark Feit and Chloe Schwarting, the entire production gets an awkward sexy vibe…in the best way possible. 

Schwarting’s Brooke Aston was inspired. In a role that could have just been a sex kitten in underwear, her choices showing us her character’s ineptitude as an actress were absolutely hysterical. Her physical prowess, draping herself inside of doorways and crawling on the floor looking for lost contacts, showed comic genius. You could almost see the air in her head. 

It was obvious the entire cast had a lot of fun (and a good workout) during this production. The second act showed the audience the behind-the-scenes action during one of the “performances” and the cast used the entirety of the stage broadly and to great effect. Doors slammed, axes were wielded, and props thrown about willy nilly. It was high-energy hysterics.

The third act was when the entire show really gelled as it came unglued. The exasperation of the worn out “actors” was palpable and created such sympathy in the audience. There’s a moment when Selsdon (Scott Glen), Tim (Christian Novotny) and Lloyd (Durban) all answer to a missed cue that had the audience rolling. 

The real director of Noises Off, Robert Wamsley, provided the set design and as always, did not disappoint. Wamsley chose to set the show in the 70s which gave the entire show a sexy “Three’s Company” vibe. And whether they were on or off the characters, the costumes were inspired by the grooviness of the decade.

Noises Off is one of those shows that even people who aren’t theatre-goers enjoy. It’s farce. It’s theatre. It’s life.

If you go: Noises Off runs April 30-May 1 & May 5-8, Thur-Sat 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm. Ticket info can be found at https://thestagetheater.com.

Deanna Walz is the Director of Development for Habitat for Humanity. She has participated in productions for many theatre companies in Lincoln both on and off stage. She believes in the power of community theatre for the audience, the production team, and for our community as a whole. Sharing stories creates stronger communities.

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