The Michael Frayn-penned farce, “Noises Off” will commence a new season of theatrical productions for the Little Theatre of Walla Walla, and it looks to start the season off with a bang.
The play premieres Friday, Nov. 4, with another show on Nov. 5. The play will then run Friday-Sunday on the following two weekends, including additional matinee shows on both Saturday dates.
The play, directed by Cheryl Sutlick and Robert G. Randall (the latter of whom also works at the Whitman College Bookstore), features a cast of nine, six of whom play two different parts. The reason for the part-sharing is simple; the comedy features two separate storylines, one being the play-within-a-play, and the other being said play’s “backstage,” where the cast portrays the production’s “real” actors and actresses.
This is the first farce Sutlick and Randall have directed, though the pair have previously worked on musicals, comedies and mysteries, among others. “Noises Off” has been a unique experience for the pair.
“[The play] is a huge lesson for me in patience,” Sutlick said. “I’m very obsessive, and everything has to go perfect–but it’s not going perfect, that’s the nature of the show.”
Sutlick had not been involved with any prior production of “Noises Off.” Randall had previously acted in a Little Theatre production twenty years ago, an experience he recalls being far less taxing than his current endeavors.
“It’s one of my very all time favorite plays, but its much more fun to be on that [front] side of the stage,” Randall said.
The prospect of portraying both frontstage and backstage of a fictional play, while said play is in progress, has resulted in numerous technical challenges. While larger theaters often have rotating stages, allowing plays like “Noises Off” to easily shift between two different settings, the Little Theatre has no such luxury. Thus, between each act of the play, a team of eight must deconstruct the entire set and assemble another in a period of ten minutes, transforming the setting completely from the play-within-a-play to the backstage.
For about twenty minutes of Act Two, all action in the play occurs through pantomime; blocking this section took, by Sutlick and Randall’s standards, an exceptional period of time.
“It’s like we’re choreographing a dance,” Sutlick said. “We’d spend two hours doing five minutes of the show.”
Despite the challenges, the rehearsals seem to have been rather enjoyable. Kathryn Bogley ‘15, who plays Brooke Ashton and Vicki in the play, spoke fondly of the two directors.
“I haven’t worked with teams of directors very often, but there’s so much to keep track of, I think they really appreciate each other,” Kathryn said.
Bogley currently works as an Admissions Officer for Whitman and is performing her roles for the second time after previously performing in a production at the college. She is also acting alongside her mother Shauna Bogley ‘83, who is not only also a Whitman alumna, but has also been in a prior production of “Noises Off” nearly 30 years ago.
“I think we just kind of treat each other as companion actors instead of mother and daughter,” Shauna said. “It’s fun because we can…help each other run lines and things, and since we’ve both been in the show before we know what the other one needs for…practicing.”
While both actresses have performed in prior Little Theatre productions, this is the first time the two have shared the stage, though they have performed together in musicals at the Fort Walla Walla Amphitheater.
As for “Noises Off,” both actresses were eager to revisit the play, and both found a lot of enjoyment doing so.
“I like the fast pace of this show,” Shauna said. “It’s a challenge–and so I love that challenge–and comedy is always challenging.”
The two directors are eager for visitors to see the new production.
“If anything could ever go wrong in a show, you’re gonna see it in this show,” Sutlick said. “There’s jealousy, anger, anything you could think of, manipulation, everything…Act Two is the ultimate chaos you could ever see.”
“In this day and age…laughter is the greatest thing you can possibly have,” Randall said, “and this show is non-stop.”
The opening night gala for “Noises Off” will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 4, with the play premiering at 7:30 p.m.