Review: 'Noises Off' still gets laughs in new staging

By Vladimir Bunoan,

Posted at Mar 29 2014 01:11 PM | Updated as of Mar 29 2014 09:32 PM

The very funny Act 2 of “Noises Off.” Photo: Handout

MANILA –Repertory Philippines is staging the comedy “Noises Off” for the third time, 30 years after the theater group first presented this play within a play back at the Insular Life Auditorium in 1984 with Miguel Faustmann and Paul Holme in the cast.

Rep again staged Michael Frayn’s farce hit in 1993, with Chinggoy Alonso stepping into Faustmann’s role.

For this new staging, Faustmann is now directing the play, while Alonso takes on a different role as the director Lloyd that was previously played Holme, who now portrays the alcoholic actor Selsdon.

It’s easy to see why Rep would want to bring back this three-act play or why these veteran actors have returned for another run. “Noises Off,” which opened at Onstage in Greenbelt on Friday, is such a fun play, a hilarious look at what could possibly go wrong during a theater performance.

The play opens during the final dress rehearsal of a new British farce “Nothing On,” during which the audience becomes acquainted with both the play and the actors and crew staging it. For instance, the audience is told that the young actor Garry (Lorenz Martinez) is in a relationship with the older, forgetful Dotty (Frances Makil Ignacio), while the director Lloyd (Alonso) is having an affair with both the sexy actress Brooke (Carla Guevarra-Laforteza) and the young assistant stage manager Poppy (Peachy Atilano).

It is also revealed that Freddie (Gerard Sison) gets nosebleeds when faced with violence, Selsdon is a hopeless drunk, while Brooke is as blind as a bat without her contact lens.

Act 2 happens backstage during a matinee performance and these relationships have frayed. Garry suspects Dotty is having an affair with Freddie, while Brooke threatens Lloyd to walk out on the tour. All these come to a boil during the performance.

And this is where the comic genius of “Noises Off” is fully displayed. With the set turned so the audience sees the backstage, the actors continue their performance of “Nothing On,” then turn on against each other once they exit to the backstage, resulting in hilarious, choreographed mayhem that just goes on and on.

“That was the most difficult moment in my entire directorial life,” acknowledged Faustmann after Thursday’s preview performance. “One guy makes a mistake and it crumbles …like a domino effect. The timing is crucial.”

Faustmann also noted that the Greenbelt stage is twice as large as the one in Insular Life 30 years ago, such that navigating through the 30-minute Act 2 can be physically punishing for the actors.

This is also the reason why there are two intermissions in “Noises Off.” Faustmann said he needed to give the cast a well-deserved break.

Frances Makil Ignacio as Dotty in “Noises Off.” Photo: Handout

When Act 3 opens, the audience is again watching a performance of “Nothing On” and by this time, there’s a total breakdown onstage. Dotty performs with one foot in a cast and they all miss their lines and cues. As they try to cover up such mistakes, more misfortune happens. But coming after the superb Act 2, the third act seems quite anti-climactic and not as funny anymore.

Despite this, “Noises Off” has already earned its stripes with the non-stop laughter of Act 2. Moreover, for a play like this to work, the cast has to be 100% in sync and this could be further improved upon as the run continues.

While “Noises Off” requires an ensemble effort, there were standouts in this large cast. Guevarra-Laforteza shows natural comic instincts as the dumb Brooke, while Makil Ignacio and Martinez were on point all throughout.

Lorenz Martinez and Carla Guevarra-Laforteza in a scene from “Noises Off.” Photo: Handout

What is undeniable though is that this is a hard-working, energetic ensemble and the audience certainly acknowledged this on preview night, with some of the theatergoers giving the cast a standing ovation.

It would not be surprising if years from now, Rep will be staging this rip-roaring comedy for a fourth time.

“Noises Off” runs from March 28 to April 13 and again from April 25-27 at Onstage in Greenbelt, Makati City.