Arianna Dudley (Stephen Coakley)

All reviews are written by Cappies student critics and edited by Cappies adult mentors prior to publishing.

Tyler Larkworthy, a student at Langley High School , reviews “Noises Off” performed by Tuscarora High School as part of The Cappies Critics and Awards Program.

Dotty hasn’t a clue when to take the sardines off, Garry is forgetting lines, Fredrick disagrees with the stage directions, Selsdon is nowhere to be found, and the show opens in a few hours! Such is the set-up for Tuscarora High School’s laugh-out-loud production of Noises Off, an energetic farce detailing the disastrous rehearsal and performance of the fictional show Nothing’s On.

Written by Michael Frayn, Noises off was published in 1982 and premiered at London’s Lyric Theatre that same year. Opening to incredibly favorable reviews, the play ran at West End until 1987 and opened on Broadway in 1983, earning a Tony nomination for Best Play. The show was also adapted into a 1992 film. Noises Off consists of three acts, each presenting a deeply dysfunctional cast’s increasingly calamitous performance of the first act of Nothing’s On. After stumbling through a last minute rehearsal in the first act, the set is rotated for the second act and the audience sees backstage clamor during a turbulent performance. In the third act, another performance falls into shambles as a few cast members hopelessly try to ad-lib something resembling a plot.

Character relationships and physical comedy are the essence of Noises Off’s hilarity, and Tuscarora was impeccable in both respects. Highly developed and consistent characters, from the exasperated and blunt director, Lloyd, to the absent-minded Brooke, effectively carried the plot while exaggerated movements fit perfectly in student director Alyssa Sera Josep’s excellent staging of the show’s chaotic action.

As the stuttering, awkward Garry, Stephen Coakley spoke more with his never-ending hand gestures and wild movements than he did with his stammering words. Coakley deftly contrasted Garry’s bumbling speech offstage with normalcy in the expressions of Garry’s character, Roger. Portraying the character opposite Garry’s was Brooke, played by Carly Smith. Constantly losing her contact lenses and mindlessly firing off lines with the show in disarray, Smith was a believable airhead.

As the technical director, Tim, Ben Fuhrmann gave a tired, hasty performance that captured his overworked character well. Whether running off to get flowers, falling asleep on stage, or desperately trying to save the show by insistently reading Freddy’s lines in an almost robotic tone, Fuhrman always received roars of laughter. Jessica Matera played the sensitive stage manager, Poppy, with great emotion, exploring her feelings for Lloyd and envy for Brooke while not seeming out of place in the hilarity of the show. The cast’s energy and timing started somewhat weak but improved as the show went on, building to memorable scenes of uproarious turmoil during which all cast members maintained their distinct characters.

Success in physical comedy was bolstered by the two-story set, complete with seven doors and adorned with sardine wallpaper. A breakable—and repairable—window pane was a brilliant touch, inciting huge laughs when it was broken the second after it was fully mended. The stage crew worked admirably, rotating the massive set 180 degrees quickly and with minimal distraction from the monologue performed by Tim in between acts two and three.

Tuscarora High School delighted across the board in Noises Off. Over-the-top slapstick physicality, sundry characters, and explosive timing left audience members heaving with laughter as Selsdon brought the show to a close, crying out, “When all around is strife and uncertainty, there’s nothing like a good old-fashioned plate of…curtain!”