Noises Off, which officially opens on Broadway Jan. 14, is the classic play-within-a-play. The plot follows an ill-fated touring production — troubled by bad luck, terrible acting, romantic misunderstandings, falling set pieces and alcoholic mishaps — with hilarious consequences.
Just In! See Megan Hilty, Andrea Martin, Daniel Davis and Cast in First Shots From Broadway's Noises Off
While the show is a farce, with situations and characters that become increasingly ridiculous, the cast admits that some of the scenes are painstakingly familiar. They found themselves relating to their outrageous characters far more than they were expecting to.
David Furr, who plays Garry Lejeune, was bemused to recognize so much of himself in his character, a very serious actor who can't seem to finish a thought or sentence. "I'm coming to find that many of us are actors like him because when we're in rehearsals…," he laughs. "We’re all doing that [not finishing a thought or sentence]."
"We're all realizing how much like our characters we are," he continues. "You think, 'Oh these are funny characters.' And then you realize, 'Oh. They're not that far from me, or any of us,' so that's been very revealing."
"We as performers definitely see ourselves in these people," agrees Rob McClure, who plays the over-worked and underpaid stage manager, Tim Allgood. "I think we've all have had moments already in the rehearsal room process where we've inadvertently said one of our lines, not in context."
McClure says that in preparation for his role, director Jeremy Herrin had him stage managing during some of the rehearsals and part of this involved tracking props. A recurring joke in Noises Off is that Andrea Martin's character, Dotty Otley, has trouble remembering when she is supposed to enter with a plate of sardines. McClure says that while helping Martin keep track of her prop, the sardines, the two would find themselves inadvertently reenacting the gag from the show.
"Andrea Martin came off stage and she went to take the sardines back with her and I said, 'Actually, you leave the sardines.' She said, 'I leave the sardines?' I said, 'You leave the sardines, you take the newspaper.'" This went back and forth for a moment until they suddenly realized that they were essentially running her exact lines from the play. "It does hit very close to home for most of us," he says.
"Every once in a while, somebody will unintentionally do something that is just exactly like their character," adds Daniel Davis, who plays an ageing, alcoholic actor. In constant search of the next bottle of scotch, Davis' Selsdon Mowbray is forever muddling his entrances and forgetting his cues.
"I've sort of based him off of two or three people that I’ve known over the years who like to come onstage with a little nip — a little Dutch courage to help them get through," he says. "They're completely professional but they've been doing it for so many years that their comfort level is on some days, higher than others...I haven't fortunately gotten to the place where I need a tipple," chuckles Davis.
"They’re all archetypes of people that we’ve worked with," agrees Jeremy Shamos. He plays Frederick Fellowes, a perpetually distressed actor who "isn't the sharpest tool in the shed." Shamos says that while he and the cast have found themselves reenacting moments from the play and highlight the laughable side of an actor's personality, Noises Off also brings to light a lot of the charm that is involved in making theatre. “The show does have the spirit of the love and the family that gets created when you do a play, and I think that's very sweet," he says. "The heart of the play is really creating a family and creating that 'show must go on' kind of feeling."
Like every family, with all their imperfections, the characters in Noises Off love, hate, bicker and support one another, to the very end — or curtain call.
To purchase tickets and for more information, visit RoundaboutTheatre.org.