BANGOR — What
kind of person guffaws when an actor’s pants
Well, there was
a whole theater full of them in
Bangor Saturday night, each as
surprised as his neighbor.
At the end of
“Noises Off,” Mark Torres’ swan song as
producing artistic director of Penobscot Theatre
Company, the crowd gave Torres’s production and
its talented cast a standing ovation.
Even though this
was only farce.
Even though this
particular farce by Michael Frayn has been
making the rounds for a couple of decades.
The ovation was
a downright tribute to all the dropped trousers,
flying sardines and silly pratfalls that this
cast somehow turned into Cirque du Soleil rather
than Benny Hill.
“Noises Off” is
a theatrical term for sounds coming from
offstage. In this case, the “noises” are a
troupe of actors’ backstage lives being kept
back there, just barely. Or not.
This is a play
about a play, a traditional, door-slamming farce
that shows us the humiliating collapse of a
traditional, door-slamming farce.
Frayn gives us
Otstar Productions, a bunch of second-rate
British actors hoping to make money with a
national tour of a farce called “Nothing On.”
Its star and chief investor, Dotty Otley, is
famed as “the lollipop lady” in “On the Zebras,”
a television program that also has spawned
several other Otstar actors.
We know about
“On the Zebras” only because there’s a complete
playbill for “Nothing On” enclosed in your real
playbill. It’s hysterical reading, so try to
arrive early enough to absorb some of it before
the curtain goes up.
In Act One of
“Noises Off,” the actors and their director are
in a frenzied dress-and-technical rehearsal
hours before opening night. Act Two catches up
with them mid-tour, with the set turned around
so we can see the angry and lovelorn actors
half-killing each other backstage while the show
goes on, more or less, out front.
We’re back out
front ourselves for Act Three, when all hell
breaks loose on the last night of the tour.
“Noises Off” wears so well is that it’s such a
diabolically clever idea for a play.
everything in farce: The door must slam behind
Character A exactly one second before Character
B explodes onto the stage without seeing him.
characters’ chaotic lives allow that precision
to fail in “Nothing On,” the meringue-like plot
crumbles. Getting to see that happen makes us
admire the achievements of the “Noises Off” cast
There’s much to
admire. Torres and cast have managed to create
two sets of characters (one for each farce)
while getting the stunt-timing down cold. On
Saturday night, the audience interrupted Act Two
to applaud a particularly deft bit of
The cast is a
mix of familiar faces and newcomers, all
PTC regulars Kae
Cooney, Mark S. Cartier, Robert Libbey and Adam
Kuykendall offer intelligently developed
characters and nuanced comedy. Cooney’s manic
laughter in the last act, when her character is
trying to make up a new plot right out there in
front of the audience, is an actor’s nightmare
put to music.
Kuykendall anchor every scene they’re in.
Cartier is, as usual, perfect as an actor who
can quibble a rehearsal into a standstill and
then waste some more time apologizing for it.
New to the PTC
stage is A.J. Mooney, who has been starring in
Ten Bucks Theatre Company productions.
She gives a
solid and funny performance as Dotty Otley.
Kelly Tuohy, a welcome newcomer “from away,” is
suitably dotty herself as the troupe ingénue.
and Jenny Bragdon, who began performing with PTC
this year, return in well-constructed supporting
roles. Khalan Bridges, a senior at Brewer
High School, shows promise as the put-upon stage manager.
this play “a love letter to the theatre.” And
he’s right — under the silliness, there’s a
compelling subplot that comes through every time
one of the characters shakes off his backstage
distress, straightens his shoulders, grabs a
plate of sardines and goes on.
conveys that subplot beautifully. And then the
pants fall down.
Theatre Company production of “Noises Off” is at
the Bangor Opera House through Sunday, May 1.
Tickets/information: 942-3333 or