ACT PRESENTING BACKSTAGE COMEDY
Altoona Community Theatre will present its 20th Anniversary production of Michael Frayn’s backstage comedy “Noises Off” with four performances February 14 to 17 on the Benzel Stage of the Historic Mishler Theatre, 1208 12th Avenue, downtown.
“Noises Off” is a three-act play-within-a-play, where a second-rate British is readying a touring production of a mediocre British sex farce titled “Nothing On.” Each of the acts of “Noises Off” contains a presentation of the same scene from “Nothing On.” Act One is set at the dress rehearsal the night before opening, with the cast still fumbling with entrances and exits, misspoken lines and bothersome props. In Act Two, the play is seen from backstage, revealing deteriorating personal relationships among the cast leading to offstage shenanigans and onstage bedlam. Act Three is a performance near the end of the ten-week run when the personal friction has continued to increase and the show truly is a shambles.
Kate Kate Wolf of Ebensburg is directing the show, one with which she is very familiar having been a cast member of ACT’s November 1993 production. Other shows she’s directed for the troupe include “The Producers,” “The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (abridged)” and “Crimes of the Heart.” She also has acted in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” “Steel Magnolias” and “The Drowsy Chaperone,” as well as others.
Michael McClure of Altoona leads ACT’s current “Noises Off” cast as Lloyd Dallas, the harried director of the British company, returning to the Mishler stage after a four-year hiatus since he played Robert in ACT’s production of Stephen Sondheim’s “Company” and the husband in the musical “The Last Five Years.”
Martha Taverse of State College, playing leading lady Dotty Otley, also is returning to ACT but after an absence of more than 15 years. Audiences will remember her as Anna in “The King and I,” Sister Mary Amnesia in “Nunsense,” Sarah Brown in “Guys and Dolls” and Chick Boyle in “Crimes of the Heart.”
Katie Kensinger of State College, who plays a young, ditzy actress with bad eyesight, is appearing in her ninth show with ACT, having been cast as everything from horror spoof siren Audrey in “Little Shop of Horrors” to the sweet but tomboyish Laurey in last year’s “Oklahoma!”
Another State College area actor, Shawn T. McMurtie, is making his ACT debut in “Noises Off,” playing the leading man, Gary Lejeunne. He has worked previously with State College Community Theatre, The Next Stage and Centre Playhouse.
Sam Wagner of Cresson and Lacey Lichvar are cast as a married acting couple, Frederick Fellowes and Belinda Blair. Wagner has played musical, comic and dramatic roles with ACT, from Trevor Graydon in “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and a wacky Gangster/Pastry Chef in “The Drowsy Chaperone” to distraught son Chris Keller in “All My Sons.” Lichvar is making her ACT debut but has performed previously with Bedford County Players, Clarion University Theatre and Shippensburg University Theatre.
Eric Wolf of Ebensburg plays an aging and often inebriated character actor, Selsdon Mowbry. Last seen as the narrator (Man in Chair) in “The Drowsy Chaperone,” Wolf is returning to “Noises Off” like his wife (director Kate) from ACT’s 1993 production in which the two of them played the married actors, Frederick and Belinda.
Rodney Berkey of Fishertown and Gina Volpe of Altoona round out the cast as Tim and Poppy, the stage managers. Berkey made his ACT debut in “The Producers” and was last seen as Charlie, the mailman, in “On Golden Pond.” Volpe has performed in a number of ACT shows (including the Judy Garland role in “Meet Me in St. Louis”), directed the children’s musical “Pinkalicious!” and has taught ACT’s Summer drama workshops for several years.
Performances of “Noises Off” will be 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, February 14, 15 & 16, and 2 p.m. Sunday, February 17. Tickets are $20 for Adults and $15 for Students and may be purchased through the Mishler Theatre Box Office (11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays, (814) 943-4357) or online at www.altoonacommunitytheatre.