Doug Wilder, director of “Noises Off” at 1st Stage, breaks down the farce like so:
Act One: “It’s this meta idea. You’re watching a rehearsal happen. And these actors are a bit broad . . . but all of us who’ve worked in the theater can identify with them.”
Act Two: “It becomes this big physical disaster.”
Act Three: “Dangerous [and] scary. All the actors are afraid of what’s going to happen next. It turns into an improv show at the end.”
An improv show? “I went in with a completely different ending in mind than the one we ended up with,” he said. “You really have the option of ending with a disaster, ending with positive success, or some combination of the two of those things, simply by the way your performers play the scene. It is a comedy, though, so we do get married at the end.”
“Noises Off” follows a troupe of actors preparing for opening night, and I tell Wilder I worry that this is one of those theater-people shows with drama-club in-jokes no one else will get. Wilder assures me that’s not the case.
“It’s really a workplace comedy. Not all of us work office jobs, but we all get ‘The Office.’ Not all of us work in politics, but we all get ‘The West Wing.’ Although there’s a lot for theater lovers to love . . . it’s really [about] the relationships.”
Through Dec. 29, 1524 Spring Hill Rd., Tysons Corner; www.1ststagetysons.org, 703-854-1856.
Naomi Jacobson and John Lescault, a real-life married couple, are playing a married couple in “The Lyons.” But they are both pretty certain — or at least hopeful — that that is the beginning and end of the things they have in common with their characters.
Lescault describes his part in a way I cannot write in this newspaper. It does include the word “cantankerous.” “He is dying of cancer. And we’re in his hospital room, and he’s going to do down swinging.”
As for Jacobson’s character: “I feel like there’s parts of her that are me . . . It’s like I get to release into my worst self. . . . She’s very forthright. She says what she thinks. So there’s not a lot of filter. So in a way, though I hope I’m not a whole lot like Rita, I think there’s lots of ways I’m like her: In my worst moments, I’m narcissistic, self-absorbed.”
The script spells out the fact that Rita, Jacobson’s character, never loved her husband, even though he loved her. “She says, ‘I saw from the very first moment that you loved me, and I was trapped.’ Because when somebody loves you with that kind of an intensity, and they’re a good match and they’re solid, [there are] all the reasons why she might have said yes,” Jacobson said. “When somebody loves you that hard, it’s hard to turn that down. And she says that she tried so hard to love him back and she couldn’t. It just wasn’t there for her. That is the tragedy of their marriage.”
The Lyons have two children, played by Marcus Kyd and Kimberly Gilbert. These perfectly normal and well-adjusted siblings call each other every few days just to say hi and see how the kids are doing, I assume.
“I think the kids are so dysfunctional,” Jacobson said. “They absorb the emotional truth of the family.”
Ah, never mind then.
Lisa, Gilbert’s character, is an alcoholic. Ben, played by Kyd, is gay and rejected by his father because of it; as a result, “the love [Rita] didn’t have for her husband, she poured into her son. She started using her son as a substitute, sort of. Which messed him up.”
Jacobson and Lescault, who have been married for 19 years and live in Silver Spring, aren’t new to playing husband and wife onstage. They’ve done “The Talented Mr. Ripley” and “Wintertime,” both at Round House, among others.
“In ‘Wintertime,’ we both had other lovers,” Jacobson said. “In ‘Talented Mr. Ripley,’ I was dying of cancer. He’s been my dad.”
“Oh, it was an absurdist play.”
That . . . doesn’t make it much better.
“We had sex in a coffin.”
While he was pretending to be your dad?
“It was called ‘Vampires.’ ”
Okay, great, awesome. On that note, back to “The Lyons.”
“I think it’s a perfect holiday play,” Jacobson said. “Because everyone will think, ‘My family’s not that bad!’ ”
Through Dec. 22 at Round House Theatre Bethesda, 4545 East-West Highway, Bethesda; www.roundhousetheatre.org, 240-644-1100.