Students putting on the Tony Award-nominated Noises Off, a play within a play

by: REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Amy Davis as Belinda checks out Caden Reed as Roger who has just passed out in the production of 'Noises Off.'Sardines falling on an actress’ head and a cactus spiking the seat of a director’s pants are comedic high points in “Noises Off,” a Westside Christian High School production showing at Alpenrose Dairy Opera House for the next couple of weeks.

It’s the first time the Lake Oswego private school’s drama teacher, Michael Shelton, has directed “Noises Off,” but Shelton’s a fan of the Tony Award-nominated farce.

“I love the idea of doing something interactive with the audience — the audience themselves are unwitting characters in the story,” Shelton said.

During Englishman Michael Frayn’s play within a play, a hopeless theater troupe bungles rehearsals and shows amid a whirlwind of shenanigans. Drawing the audience into the action in Act Two, the set is rotated on rollers to afford attendees a view of the backstage slapstick silliness.

Spectators even get a program for “Nothing On,” the play within “Noises Off.” The term “noises off” is for sounds made backstage that are intended to be heard during a production.

The student version of “Noises Off” opens this Friday, and the final curtain falls on May 5 — and interwoven through each of the 12-member casts’ performance is an aquatic, gill-breathing, fin-flapping motif.

Senior Aly Brooks said there are a quite few scenes featuring sardines, which are actually rubbery, sardine-shaped fishing lures — with the hooks yanked REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Nathan Longacre as Selson and Rachel Munaw as Kim rehearse a scene.

Brooks’ character, Dotty, is the victim of a rival actress’ tiny fish attack, avenging herself by pouring sardines down the back of the offender’s shirt. Brooks, 18, said though she’s been involved in the drama department since her freshman year, the situational and physical humor are new to her.

“It’s definitely more difficult since I’ve never worked on this kind of thing,” Brooks said. “Mr. Shelton’s been really helpful.”

Senior Chris Lea’s character, director Lloyd Dallas, also endures humiliation when an actor hits him on his bottom with a cactus, thinking Dallas is flirting with his girlfriend.

“I really enjoy the fact that I get to yell and scream and kind of get to have tirades,” said Lea, 18. “His actors are not listening to him and do not even know their lines.”

The about 15-student crew handles makeup, costumes, lights and sound with some parental assistance to build the set. The crew also serves as nonspeaking characters who appear onstage occasionally to fix the set, rigged to be rickety for comic effect.

Putting on the show takes teamwork, an important life lesson, said Shelton, who is in his fifth year teaching at Westside.

“Even the students that never choose to do theater again outside of high school have an experience being placed in a close to real work life situation,” he said.

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