BY CARY GINELL
Acting is often a family affair and it stands to reason that if one member of a family gets the theater bug, it’s no surprise when other family members get infected as well. It doesn’t happen often that two members of the same family end up playing the same part in the same show, but that’s what has happened in the Tobin family. Suzanne Tobin, who played Dotty Otley in Conejo Players’ recent production of the outrageous slam-bang comedy “Noises Off” (VC On Stage: 9/17/13) will now get to watch her daughter Mariah play the same part in Newbury Park High School’s production of the show. The school’s Panther Players, led by new director Danielle Rollins, will premiere the show this Thursday at the NPHS Performing Arts Center.
“Noises Off” is a play within a play. It is about an ambitious director and his troupe of mediocre actors. The cast and crew are putting together a silly sex comedy titled, Nothing On – a single-set farce in which lovers frolic, doors slam, clothes are tossed away, and embarrassing hi-jinks ensue. Chaos follows when personal grievances between the actors begin to interfere with their performance. Although “Noises Off” is a play, it’s almost a musical, because of the rhythmic syncopation of the slamming doors of the set and the split-second timing required by all of the actors.
Mariah, a sixteen-year-old junior at NPHS, was on hand to see her mother play Dotty at Conejo Players. At a rehearsal at NPHS this week, I managed to corral Mariah and Suzanne for a chat about this unique opportunity.
VCOS: So tell me, was this a coincidence that you two ended up doing the same role in the same show?
MARIAH: Yes, it was. Danielle is new to the school and she said, “The first show we’re going to do is ‘Noises Off'” and I said, “Oh, that’s really cool. I’ll audition.” So I auditioned, and she said, “I don’t want you to be your mom, so don’t be your mom.” So I said, “OK.”
VCOS: Did you audition for Dotty?
MARIAH: She didn’t have us audition for parts, she asked us to perform a monolog and then she chose what characters she thought fit us best if we got called back. Well, I got called back for Brooke and Dotty. I was at one of my mom’s shows at Conejo Players when I got a call from Danielle, and she said, “I was wondering if you’d like to play Dotty.” So I said yeah, I would. I then told everybody in the cast, because they were all rooting for me, and they were really ecstatic when I told them.
VCOS: Suzanne, how did you feel about it?
SUZANNE: As a mom, I knew she was going to blow them away because she has a presence on stage that’s pretty phenomenal. I knew that part requires somebody who is pretty confident, especially in Act Three, but I knew she could definitely pull it off. It’s so cool. It’s SO COOL that I can’t even tell you! I’m so proud of her.
VCOS: So have you compared notes on playing the character?
MARIAH: No. I’m just doing it the way that I think it should be done. Dotty is somebody who has been in show business for a long time, and she’s in a relationship with Garry, who is one of the actors, but things start to fall apart because everyone is blaming her for not knowing her stuff. And Garry is jealous all the time and has a lot to handle with her.
SUZANNE: In Act I, what I was aiming for is this overconfident woman who chose this part because it was going to be easy and she was going to make some money, so she thought. When things started falling apart and I lost control, my Dotty just gave in to the utter futility of it and became everything that she pretends she’s not in the beginning. She thought she would fill the house just by virtue of her being who she is. She had a reason for everything she did. Danielle is a Meisner person, so she’s working a lot on intention and making it real. When you’re up there and doing it, it’s not funny to you. That’s what makes comedy great.
VCOS: Mariah, what’s your strong suit? What makes you perfect for this role?
MARIAH: I’m comfortable on stage and comfortable with situations, which is good for this role, because there’s a lot of situations that you have to be prepared for because there’s so much going on.
VCOS: When you were watching your mom do Dotty and you knew you were going to be playing her too, what were you thinking?
MARIAH: I just wanted to start off fresh and I didn’t want to have her performance in my head while I was doing it because I didn’t want to copy her.
VCOS: What other shows have you done here?
MARIAH: Last year I did “Charlotte’s Web” and then “Arsenic and Old Lace.” I was Martha Brewster.
VCOS: How is “Noises Off” different from those plays?
MARIAH: It’s more physical and there are a lot of personal relationships within the show. And you have to be in sync with everybody else. You have to follow each other and know what their steps are going to be so you don’t bump into them – because it moves so fast and you have to know what the beats are and you have to know what everyone is going to do. It’s a team effort.
VCOS: I noticed that the whole cast gets in a circle and you go down the line and each person says something to the next person. What was that?
MARIAH: We do that after every rehearsal. We say, “I will hold you up. I will not let you fall.”
“Noises Off” plays at the NPHS Performing Arts Center from November 7-16. See the VC On Stage Calendar for dates and times.