Comedic backstage politics shine through in ‘Noises Off’
When the Egyptian Theatre opens a four-night run of the British comedy "Noises Off" on Thursday, audiences will get a glimpse behind a dysfunctional cast trying to look functional on stage.
"It’s a typical farce," said Dee Macaluso, who plays the grande dame Dottie. "There is a lot of chaos. There are doors opening and closing and people running and hiding."
Cate Conroy, who portrays reliable and sensible actress Belinda, said "Noises Off" is controlled chaos on two levels.
"We have stairs, balconies and chairs that we are working with, so the sets have a lot to do with how we perform," Conroy said. "Also, the second act has very little dialogue and for us, it’s like a 30-minute dance. We’re all moving in sync, or it will all fall apart, and the trick is for the actors to make it look like things are falling apart but in reality, we’re the ones who are keeping it together."
Both actresses say they are enjoying the rehearsals, but for different reasons.
Macaluso, who started her acting career in sketch comedy and improv, said she continues to find new elements in the play to work with.
"That happens more and more when I go off script," she said. "That’s when I start discovering all of these funny things."
That has challenged Conroy, whose character interacts closely with Macaluso’s.
"Dee is brilliant and her comedic timing is genius and she brings something different every night," Conroy said. "She’s challenged me to not get too set in my ways. Because of that, I find it easy to changer my interactions with her and that keeps it fresh and new."
"Noises Off," written by Michael Frayn, was inspired by an experience he had watching the play "The Two of Us" from the wings. His first foray into the concept was performed as "Exits" in 1977 and then fleshed out into "Noises Off" in 1982.
Macaluso’s and Conroy’s roles are archetypes in the theatrical world.
Dottie is an older actress, who has a lot of experience both on and off stage, and would seduce a hotel doorman if she could, according to Macaluso.
"But she would do it in a very sweet way," she said with a laugh.
Dottie is in love with another character named Garry and likes to make him jealous by teasing another actor named Freddie.
"My relationship with Freddie is innocent, but not to Garry, who catches me in awkward situations and positions with Freddie throughout the play," Macaluso said. "Freddie is young, naive and dumb and while things that Dottie does can have double meanings, he just thinks they are sweet. And they are seemingly harmless, but can be taken the wrong way."
Belinda, on the other hand, is very protective of Freddie, according to Conroy.
"She is the mother figure of the cast, and tries desperately to hold things together," Conroy said. "However, she also has a very flirtatious demeanor with the men."
When Dottie starts making moves on Freddie, Belinda steps in the only way she knows how.
"She not only gets maternal, but also has that desire to become more like his girlfriend," Conroy said. "So, she goes after Dottie full bore. It’s like ‘You don’t get to manipulate him, because he’s mine to manipulate, and my motives are pure, unlike yours.’"
The actresses say they are a lot like the roles they play.
"Belinda is a control freak, and I must say that I feel a little typecast for that," Conroy said with a laugh.
"The truth is I am Dottie," Macaluso said. "I forget where I am. I forget my lines. I look around and know when there is a pause, it’s usually my fault."
Both also enjoy working with director Amber Hansen.
"I’m grateful to Amber because she’s not one of those directors who loves to watch us discover stuff and make her laugh in new ways," Macaluso said. "I’ve been also delving deeper into my relationships with other characters that adds a physical level of humor, and I love physical comedy. So, I’m having fun discovering all of this shtick."
"Amber has done a great job choreographing the scenes," Conroy said. "I love British farce in general, and this, to me is the epitome of that, so, the timing has to be impeccable in order for everything to play right.
"The writer gives a lot of detailed stage direction and a lot of times, we don’t use that, because Amber will give us some things to use and we’ll do her vision for some of the sequences. Sometimes things have to change last minute, but Amber stayed true to the British humor of it."
The Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St., will present Michael Frayn’s comedic farce, "Noises Off" from Thursday, June 9, through Sunday, June 11. Curtain for Thursday through Saturday is 8 p.m. Sunday’s performance will begin at 6 p.m. Tickets range from $19 to $29 and can be purchased by visiting http://www.parkcityshows.com.
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