WORKING THE FARCE-WITHIN-A-FARCE: Keyes, Bedard, and Cunis.
Talking slammed-door farces, you could make a good case that Michael Frayn’s oh-so clever Noises Off has the finger-snappiest pace, the slapstickiest style, and thereby the funniest rewards of the lot. That all that also makes it among the hardest of them all to perform hasn’t slowed down a dauntless Providence College Theatre troupe as they run this breathless gauntlet (through November 4).
Under the direction of Peter Sampieri, they roll up their sleeves and do an enthusiastic and respectable job, British accents and all. Even professional companies have a devil of a time coaxing all the gags from all these silly exchanges and situations, but there are more than enough laughs available, and this production produces plenty.
The more problems the characters are coping with, the merrier the time for us. And what could offer more farcical conflicts than an under-prepared final rehearsal for a farce? That’s just for starters — Act II takes us behind the scenes a month later, when they’re no longer bumping into furniture on stage but backstage are clashing like human bumper cars. Act III is like a DVD bonus scene; since by now we know all the relationships, we are back watching from the audience’s point of view as the actors perpetrate a disastrous final production.
Those acting in the farce-within-a-farce — Nothing On — have as many archetypal foibles and crotchets as stock commedia dell’arte characters. The oldest of them are Dotty and Selsdon, played by Suzanne Keyes and Brian McCormack. She is a hasbeen actress, here playing a maid, a role she makes clear is far beneath her talents. Since she has money in the show, though, she can’t storm off. Selsdon is a never-was with 60 years in the theater. Doddering and hard of hearing, he provides more frustrating miscommunications than a mime at a political rally. (That elderly actors are being played by apple-cheeked youths is a bit distracting at first, but you may grow to accept it as just another stage convention, like watching all this through the fourth wall.)
Playwright Frayn couldn’t resist inserting a stock bubble-headed blonde ingénue. The frequent and characterizing line of Brooke (Sarah Bedard) is “Sorry?” as, lost in her own world, she fails to hear what is said to her. Belinda (Elena Blyskal) keeps her head on her shoulders, sometimes standing in for us as an eye-rolling observer. Poppy (Kiki Tarkhan) is supposed to be levelheaded, being the stage manager, but she can’t help but be occasionally drawn into all this madness.
, Michael Frayn, Providence College, Peter Sampieri, More