Family Friendly Farce Hits the CFA

Tony-winning Noises Off is Unlike Anything We’ve Seen Before


Photograph by KSD

Lots of cool SWAG for the Upper School show, playing November 13-16.

Considered by many theatre aficionados as one of Broadway’s funniest comedies ever, Noises Off hits the John Davies Theater at the Center for the Arts this week. The show presents what one reviewer, Michael Frayn,  called “a manic menagerie of actors rehearsing a flop called Nothing’s On. Doors slamming, on and offstage intrigue, and an errant herring all figure in the plot of this hilarious and classically comic play. ”  The Upper School’s Fall production of  this hilarious show will be performed four times, from Wednesday November 13th to Saturday November 16th and the run will feature two separate casts performing on alternating dates. (see Sidebar). To allow the students to get a better idea of the production, and the work going into it, we interviewed  drama teacher and the play’s Director Ms. Cristina Pla-Guzman.

Aidan McQuaid:   Would you mind giving me a quick synopsis of the show? 

Both casts of Noises Off gave a sneak peak at their show for the Parents Association last week.

Cristina Pla-Guzman (“Pla”): The show is a play within a play. So when the audience gets there, they’re going to see a show going on, called Nothing’s On. Before you realize it, the actors are making mistakes and the director is yelling from the audience. It’s very interactive, people coming in and offstage. [During] Act One the cast trying to get through a rehearsal. Act Two is entirely different, with a massive set with eight doors and a fireplace that swings around. And when it turns around, you see the entire show as if you’re backstage. So it gives you a way of seeing what happens backstage and this catastrophe of a show that’s happening. And then with that comes all the bloopers and all the behind the scenes action, the accidents that happen backstage.  It’s really great. The audience really gets to see something that they would never have the opportunity to see, which is to show [what’s] happening from the backstage point of view. So by Act Three, the whole entire massive set swings around again, and you’re looking at it from the front again, but this time they’re running the actual show.

AM:   Why did you choose Noises Off as your production for this year?
Pla: Well, first of all, within the last few years, my students have done many different genres:  romantic comedies and musicals that were very upbeat, such as Shrek and Grease…and a lot of dramas with things like 21 Chump Street and Rent. [What they] haven’t tackled is comedy on its own. I think there’s a very specific way to deal with comedy, knowing  to tell punch lines and how to really deliver a story in very different ways, so that was definitely my thing. My guiding light was that I wanted to deal with comedy, and the more research that I did, several shows were possibilities. 

AM: Is there anything that you’re particularly excited about doing for this production?

Pla: I definitely think the massive set – the two-floor set that spins- is incredible. I think the thing that I’m most excited about is we’re doing it with a small cast – a cast of nine. And I made a decision to do double casting for this show,

which means that essentially, these two casts are going to have the experience of having a lead role. So really working and digging deep into making very believable characters and dealing with them in a much more sophisticated way. I’m the first to tell you that I absolutely love musicals with all their spectacular costumes, set, and all that stuff. But frankly, when it’s sixty kids on stage, it’s sometimes harder to get every single person in the ensemble to be very, very connected to the central storyline or do the additional work like character analysis and all that stuff to prep to take on a role. And in this production, since everybody has the opportunity of taking on a really juicy character that has lots of lines has a lot of time on stage, they can spend a lot of time developing and working very differently.

AM: Aside from the actual show dates, is there any other important information people wanting to see the production should know?

Pla: Well, we’re really excited about doing four shows as opposed to [our traditional] three. This gives you an opportunity to see different casts as well. So the cast that does opening night, Wednesday, is the cast that does Friday night. And then the cast that does Thursday night is the cast that does Saturday. Come on Wednesday night and Saturday –  you’re not going to see the same show! On the 13th we do a dessert reception. So another very big difference this time is that we’re doing a Saturday show at 12. That one also will have a small reception before it. 

Performances of Noises Off will be on Nov 13-16 in the Center for the Arts at 7pm Wednesday through Friday and a 12 noon performance on Saturday November 16. There are no fees for any of the performances and it is a family -friendly.