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After two-year hiatus, Civic production ready for stage

Complicated farce coming to Arts United


John O'Connell

Whatzup Features Writer

Published May 3, 2022

A production two years in the making. The designs were complete, the cast was set, and we were one week out from starting rehearsal when the pandemic hit, and our nation shut down. I guess that was better than one week out from performance. This was the end of our production hopes. 

Skip to a year later, and Phillip Colglazier asks me if I think we’d like to remount the production two years later.  I was more than eager to get on board. 

We had hoped for the same cast, and they were onboard until … well … babies got in the way. 

Cast members and our stage manager all decided to have babies. Alas, while we missed them, we were fortunate to recast with terrific local actors excited to take on the challenging comedy.  

This farce by Michael Frayn, for me, is the most difficult play I have ever directed, and after doing it once, I said I’d never go near it again. I guess, never say never, right? 

Here I am again with this terrific group of people working on a farce that requires intricate timing, ridiculously fast-paced physical action, and dialects, plus all the actors playing two characters for this play within a play. 

During rehearsal, we are regularly thrilled and exhilarated, while at the same time terrified and overwhelmed. The reason this comedy is one of the most performed in history has to do with the over-the-top, ridiculous nature of the events that befall this troupe of actors that make this the pinnacle of all British farces in the last 50 years. 

Tracking the plates of sardines and the whiskey bottle alone is driving actors and stage managers to the brink.

I am so grateful that the excellent design team from The Civic Theatre saved all the work we did two years ago in preparing for that production. This made the design process easy and ready to start where we left off. The two-story set alone is a feat of grand scenic design, not accounting for the fact we have to turn this behemoth around … twice. 

The period costumes have been great fun to design, allowing us to review old fashion catalogs from the late ’60s and early ’70s. 

And the props … well, sardines, sardines, and more sardines, and the doors, lots of doors. 

As the character Lloyd Dallas, the director, says, “That’s what it’s all about. Doors and sardines. Getting the sardines on, getting the sardines off. That’s farce. That’s the theater. That’s life.” 

Well, welcome to our madcap, farcical life of Noises Off!

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