Theater revives slapstick comedy

Garry, played by Jack McAfee, and Belinda, played by Rachel Cendrick (shown) are characters in the play,“Noises Off,” a comedic play that made its debut last night at Jones Theatre. The show pokes a bit of fun at theater and entertains audiences at the same time. Tickets are $20 for general audience members and $17 for students; they can be purchased on the Baylor department of theatre arts website. Photo credit: Jessica Hubble

A comedic cast kept audiences laughing at the opening show of “Noises Off,” presented by the Baylor department of theatre arts Tuesday night. The farcical comedy by Michael Frayn pokes fun at the world of theater itself as the eccentric characters attempt to perform a play called “Nothing On.”

This week marks the second time in Dr. Stan Denman’s Baylor teaching career that he’s directed “Noises Off.” He decided to revive the comedy because he said he thinks it’s one of the funniest plays ever written.

“I have yet to find anybody, unless they just have zero sense of humor, who doesn’t like this play,” Denman said.

Although the play is a comedy, Denman says there’s still a lesson to take away from the show.

“It’s trying to get us to take a look at our own sort of petty jealousies and insecurities, our own narcissism,” Denman said.

Conroe junior Lucas McCutchen agrees that “Noises Off” makes fun of the egotism and “cattiness” of the stereotypical actor. His character, Garry Lejeune, becomes jealous when he believes another actor has been flirting with his costar.

McCutchen’s character is involved in a lot of physical gags like falling down a flight of stairs and hopping around the stage with his shoelaces tied together. He and several other actors met with a stage combat professor before regular rehearsals to practice stunts like these.

“We’re all drenched in sweat by the end of it,” McCutchen said. “You don’t need to work out at home afterwards.”

The majority of the cast including McCutchen are members of Baylor’s improve group, Guerrilla Troupe. He said his years of experience with Guerrilla Troupe have helped him with comedic timing and thinking on his feet.

“The show is so crazy that sometimes you just have to improv lines,” McCutchen said. “It keeps you on your toes.”

San Antonio junior Kolby Jacobs, also a member of Guerrilla Troupe, said that the cast members sometimes change things up onstage so that no two shows are alike.

Jacobs also said that the script for “Noises Off” includes large sections where the movements and blocking for the actors are more important that the actual dialogue.

“It’s chaos, but it’s the most structured chaos you’ll ever see,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs plays Brooke Ashton, a former adult film actress making her debut on the stage. She said one of the biggest challenges she’s faced in the role is wearing 6-inch heels while running up and down stairs.

“She’s really in her own world, but she never misses a beat in her role,” Jacobs said. “Even when everyone else is messing up, she knows exactly where to be and what line to say, even if it doesn’t make sense with how much they’ve messed up.”

The first act of “Noises Off” shows the last dress rehearsal for the fictional play “Nothing On,” a traditional English farce. The second act shows the set from the other side, as tensions between the actors escalate backstage. In the third and final act, the characters have trouble concealing their true feelings onstage, resulting in a hilariously different performance than their dress rehearsal.

In between acts, audiences might enjoy reading the fake programs for “Nothing On.” The biographies for the fictional characters include previous roles like “Yak #3,” “Show Girl in Green Feathers” and “left shoulder and buttock in last season’s hit HBO series West World”.

“Noises Off” still has six more shows from tonight until Sunday afternoon in the Jones Theatre. Tickets are discounted at $17 for students and available online.