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Farce is always a challenging genre to mount and pull off successfully on stage. With its abundance of slamming doors, prop gags, and heavy physical comedy Noises Off is certainly no exception. Act One opens on final dress of "Nothing On," the farcical play that the characters are mounting within the next few hours; Act Two shows us the comical happenings "backstage" as the characters deal with personal conflicts while barely managing to complete their opening show; and Act Three returns us to the stage and what remains of the show once the stereotypical melodramatic theatre types have done their damage. Aside from a definite lag in pace due to combining the copious dialogue with the rapid-fire delivery the style demands, for a cast consisting of mostly underclassmen or first-time actors, UNC Pembroke's University Theatre presented an entertaining night of comedy.
In Act One, the audience is greeted with a lovely two story house full of doors and stairs for the actors to work with. Unfortunately, the gag of slamming doors and back and forth entrances and exits got ahead of the cast for this opening act, dragging the pace down. The actors established their specific characters with overall consistency. While Garry kept his lines flowing, he may have been overcome with keeping up the pace so much that his gag of never finishing a sentence was lost on the audience. This recovered very well in the third act, however, when this translated into his onstage persona Roger Tramplemain's humorous inability to complete a line. Belinda took on her role as mother hen onstage and off in a strong way that kept the pace moving along in both "Nothing On" and Noises Off. Poppy and Tim exemplified the stereotypical, taken for granted stage hands, and Lloyd Dallas' embodiment of director of a hopeless cast was very convincing, especially for the actor's first production at UNCP.
Inconsistencies in the writing and the accents were not enough to break the show, but they did draw the audience out of the world. Common British endearments such as "love," "pet," and "gov'nor" would have been appropriate had the cast adhered to the accent throughout the play. With one actor speaking in dialect contrasting to allusions to local North Carolina cities, such as Fuquay-Varina, inconsistencies arose that weakened the certainty of the play's location. If there was any doubt about delivering consistent British dialects, perhaps the director could have expanded on the adaptations to include local references and changed "love" and "pet" to southern colloquialisms such as "honey" and "darlin'" for a decidedly local portrayal of Noises Off.
Dialect issues were inapplicable, however, to the nearly silent Act Two, when the cast's strength in physical comedy shone through. Set backstage, as personal drama arises between Poppy, Lloyd, and Vicki, as well as Garry, Dotty, and Frederick, silent hilarity ensues as the actors attempt to seek revenge, mend relationships, and mount their opening night. Without overwhelming language to get in their way, the pace stays one step ahead of the audience and gives Act Three the appropriate ammunition it needs to plow through to the final haphazard conclusion of both "Nothing On" and Noises Off. Despite Act One's low energy and the incongruous dialects, Act Two and Three rose to the occasion to deliver one funny conclusion to one funny show. Such a young cast should be proud to have succeeded with the challenge of farce in UNC Pembroke's Noises Off.
*The author is a member of CVNC's internship program at Meredith College.