NKU Takes On “Noises Off”

Review by Liz Eichler

The Covid-limited audience at NKU’s “Noises Off” was full of laughter as the performers-in-training made a whole-hearted effort this weekend to present one of the most difficult genres of theatre: British Farce. 

Written by Michael Frayn in 1982, “Noises Off” shares the onstage and off stage antics of the cast and crew rehearsing then touring the comedy “Nothing On.” The story shares how actor’s lives and loves are interwoven and complicated, the crew is overworked and underappreciated, props are misplaced and reappear. At times they are at each other’s throats or worse, yet have their back in front of the audience during this “play-within-a-play.” Program notes point out that some of the roles are not politically correct, but reflect the humor of the time.

Classic British caricatures and contrivances of “Noises Off” (often called the funniest farce ever written) include a scantily clad woman, fallen trousers, plates of sardines (in lieu of cream pies), a drunk, so much physical comedy, mistaken identity, slamming doors, double entendre, and more.  The cast takes on British accents rather well, on top of all the detailed choreography of the comic bits. The first act flows with precision at a madcap pace, but as the marathon continues, the timing and control get the best of the cast, but enough jokes land perfectly that you will forgive the young actors. Precise timing takes years of practice, and is why British farce is the hardest genre and formidable for even experienced actors. Thank goodness the team has the amazing director Ken Jones at the helm to teach and guide, push and tweak, and help these talented actors hone these skills. These actors give their full bodies to the show and you will be amazed how they can pull off the challenging comedic bits.

There is so much talent on the Northern Kentucky stage.  First off, the stage itself is wonderful, and integral to the show with so many closing doors. Kudos to technical director Rob Kerby and designer Samantha Reno, as it appears sturdy and beautifully painted. Jo Sanburg lighting designer and costume designer Ronnie Chamberlain round out the production team along with the many hands of the undergrads who completed the work. 

Shout outs to all for their antics, but Liam Sweeney must be full of bruises for all of his pratfalls! He’s ahead of the game in physical comedy and one to watch. Joel Parece has the difficulty of playing age, but does so well and with passion that he is a cause of a lot of laughter. Austin Fidler is a wonderfully pompous two-timing director. Chloe Hedrick has a great deal of fun with physical and vocal comedy as Brooke Ashton. Trey Finkelstead has the perfect look for an older male ingenue, complete with a forehead curl. Kirby Schwarber is the beautifully dressed and implaccable Belinda Blair (her perfect costume will make you recall Mary Quant).  Reagan Ruth holds the spine of the show (and the sardines) as Dotty who plays the housekeeper. Hailey Watson plays the resourceful Stage Manager, Tim Allgood. Finally, poor put-upon Poppy is played by Hannah Beaver. Natalie Hayslett and Sylas Craven are Understudies and Swings. 

From the toe tapping pre-show music, to the hilarious antics between Acts 2 and 3, you will have a belly full of laughs at “Noises Off.”  Click HERE for tickets. 

Running until October 24 at NKU’s Corbett Theatre, you will be impressed by the changes in the lobby and surrounding the building. New carpet, new walls, new outdoor amphitheater space, trees and surprisingly tropical greenery that has matured since the space was closed to audiences in 2020. Covid protocols include touchless entry and programs, and masks are required of the audience, but the actors are maskless for this marathon of physical comedy.

Liz Eichler has been a professional costumer and arts marketer in NJ, IN, DE, SC and OH. She has an MTA in Theatre and MBA in Marketing, currently teaching at University of Dayton, and has been a member of LCT for over 10 years.