William and Mary tackles farce with "Noises Off"

sbirkenmeyer@vagazette.com

From the outset, director James Alexander Bond saw “Noises Off” as a deliberate change of pace for William and Mary Theatre. Michael Frayn’s 1982 farcical comedy chronicles a play within a play, as the characters try to produce a farce of their own while personal drama gets in the way.

“Farce is a great genre of comedy,” Bond said. “It’s light and very funny.”

Bond has directed more than 200 productions, including “The Taming of the Shrew” at Phi Beta Kappa Hall during the Virginia Shakespeare Festival several years ago. His work on that comedy impressed the theater department enough to ask for more. But ensuring the over-the-top characters hit every beat at just the right moment is no small task.

“It’s very physical,” Bond said. “It’s mathematical timing.”

Sophomore Cosmo Cothran-Bray was drawn to audition for “Noises Off” because its fast pace and slapstick comedy marked a departure from more serious plays he’s worked on previously.

“Each act is pretty much one breath,” he said. “There’s barely room to blink.”

Sarah Marksteiner, a junior at the college, said she was drawn to the play’s ridiculous characters. She compared the experience to that of riding a roller coaster.

“The show is an elaborate structure of setting things up,” she said. “It’s establishing a lot of inside jokes with the audience.”

To help guide his actors, Bond screened clips from “I Love Lucy” alongside Abbott and Costello routines for inspiration.

Although the play itself focuses on theater, Cothran-Bray said anyone from any background can enjoy its humor. Marksteiner emphasized that while the play’s many moving parts require significant effort from the actors, the audience can simply enjoy the ride.

“For the audience, it’s a breeze,” she said.

Bond echoed that sentiment: “Sit back and let it smack you in the face.”

More information

“Noises Off” sounds off at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at Phi Beta Kappa Memorial Hall. Admission is $15 for adults, $12 for military and $7 for students or children. Tickets are available at the Phi Beta Kappa Hall box office by calling 221-2674 or online at wm.edu/boxoffice.

Birkenmeyer can be reached by phone at 757-790-3029.

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