T.O. High Students Impress in “Noises Off”


You’d be lying if you said you’ve never been curious about what happens backstage during a live show, and English playwright Michael Frayne had the chance to witness this firsthand, which is what became the inspiration for his three-act farce, Noises Off. The play-within-a-play premiered in London in 1982, and since then, it underwent several revivals and revisions, including a film adaptation in 1992.

In November, Thousand Oaks High School performed its own version as well, which received great praise from all who attended. The play featured a cast of nine characters who are seen rehearsing and performing a fictional whirlwind production called Nothing On. Each of the three acts consisted of the cast working on the first act of the play, with the second attempt reflecting the most angst and turmoil. It was clear that every performer involved did thorough research on their respective characters, most notably Kristen Wisneski as the eccentric Dotty Otley, and Sean Simmons as the play’s director, Lloyd Dallas. Simmons’s portrayal and mannerisms of a typically stressed-out, artistically frustrated director was spot-on, while Wisneski seemed to hold nothing back in her comedic performance.

In Act I, the audience was introduced to each character as they completed their final dress rehearsal for a play that was well on its way to becoming an absolute failure. Actors fumbled lines and missed cues, while Dallas vainly yelled out pointers from the house. Each character showcased quirks that remained evident throughout the entire play. The only issue I had while watching the show was the lack of diction at some points. Even though some of the lines were meant to sound hastily spoken, there were a few moments where one could not understand what was being said. Despite this, the show proved entertaining and enjoyable.

Act II was the most challenging to block, with only a few spoken lines uttered at the beginning and a final vocal bombshell at the end. The remainder of the scene featured actors running to and fro, frantically trying to keep their sanity backstage while their play fell to pieces in front of a live audience. During this act, the large dollhouse-like set was wheeled completely around, and the audience had the delicious opportunity to eavesdrop on the chaos that took place behind the scenes.

In Act III, the set faced front again, but the play by now had fallen completely apart in one of the most entertaining displays of staged havoc seen on the stage. Director Joseph N. Donia took all the right risks with Noises Off. Thanks to the dedication of his cast, they were able to pull off and maintain their English accents throughout the course of the show. They fully committed to the tricky blocking, and the devotion to keep each of the characters’ distinctive personalities was outstanding. Noises Off was one of the most most entertaining shows I’ve seen in a while.

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