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Noises Off, Washington-Liberty High School, Arlington, Virginia, October 26, 2019

Maya Andersen

Bishop Ireton High School


You tumble down the stairs, you forgot the sardines, and maybe even your pants fell down. How do you hold a show together when everything backstage and onstage is falling apart? Director Lloyd Dallas tries to maintain his sanity during a final dress rehearsal, watching his actors confuse their blocking and lines. We later see two performances of the show they put on, one from the perspective of the audience, and one from backstage. Michael Frayn's 1982 masterpiece Noises Off calls for perfect timing, outrageous slapstick humor, and an unusual sincerity throughout a ridiculous series of events. Washington-Liberty High School did nothing short of a fantastic job with such a demanding show, demonstrating very well-rehearsed physical comedy and British accents, keeping high energy throughout the three acts, and enticing the audience with well-rounded characters and their hilarious relationship drama.


As mentioned before, Noises Off requires a complete flip of the set to show the two perspectives of the play being performed. Washington-Liberty did not fail to produce a magnificent two-story set, skillfully built as several different structures so that they could quickly be flipped between acts. Since the set is key to the physical comedy, the show depends on good set design, and Luella Wallander, John Riris, and Brady Dunne went above and beyond in designing the perfect set for the actors to perform their hilarious blocking.


Despite a very funny script, the play requires the actors themselves to bring comedy to their roles and relationships within the show. Elec Schoenbrun as Tim Allgood did a spectacular job in bringing the comedy to a comparatively smaller role. His high energy and hilarious delivery had the audience in stitches throughout the entire show. Besides a clearly well-rehearsed Scottish accent, Nicole Tucker as Belinda Blair brought incredible energy and character development to her role, showing Blair's vast range of emotion. Tucker clearly showed Blair's switch from a collected, sweet actress into a jealous, angry one between acts two and three.


Hair and make-up are essential to this particular show due to the ages of the actors. Marissa McDonnell and Talia Roman did an excellent job with the significant old-age make-up needed for Dotty Otley (Lindsey Gradowski) and Selsdon Mowbray (Sydney Miller). Costume design by Naomi Abramowicz and Cassie Smith was perfectly suited to the era implied by the show. The costumes brought another level of maturity to the show, enhancing the believability of the adult characters.


With nine actors and a vast backstage crew, Washington-Liberty left the audience in tears with hilarious comedy during the show and sent them off with a smile on their faces after seeing a truly delightful performance of Noises Off. This high school took a physically and intellectually demanding show, made it their own, and acted the pants off  it, at times literally.

Mason Clark

Thomas A. Edison High School


What's the last thing you'd expect to see in a show? "Sardines!!" Washington-Liberty High School's performance of the comedy "Noises Off" was anything but fishy; it was a cornucopia of frantic chaos and comedic timing.


"Noises Off" was written by Michael Frayn in 1982, but it was originally a one act play titled "Exits" until his associate Michael Cordon insisted that he keep building the story. Not only has this play been adapted into a film, it has won a number of awards including: a Drama Desk award for outstanding director of a play and ensemble for its first Broadway run in 1984, and both an Outer Critics Circle and a Tony award for a featured actress in a play in 2002 from the 2001 Broadway revival.


This show was about the fictitious British production of "Nothing On", directed by Lloyd Dallas (played by John-William Cordero), and the mishaps that occur throughout the show's run, from pants falling down to characters sitting on cacti. Characters included Mrs. Clackett (played by Lindsey Gradowski), Roger (played by Mattie Nguyen), and others. Act 1 was the rehearsal the night before the show, Act 2 was a backstage view of the show a month later, and Act 3 was another front-facing view of the stage when the entire show is on its last legs.


Mattie Nguyen, who played the actor Garry, dazzled the stage with exuberant motions and a wholehearted understanding of the sheer amount of stress his character was under. He managed to not only deliver his line "y-you know" in a refreshing way each time he said it, but also keep his energy up, even though falling down flights of stairs and almost being chopped in half by an ax. John-William Cordero, who played the director (Lloyd Dallas), also portrayed immense amounts of stress, and although his stylings consisted of mainly strained shouting, his facial expressions gave a riveting aspect to the chaos of the story.


The work of Elec Schoenbrun, who played the overlooked stagehand and understudy Tim Allgood, is also one to be commended. His characterization was deliciously vibrant, with trembling hands and the eyes and facial expressions of someone on their twelfth cup of coffee, he savored every moment he had on the stage. Lindsey Gradowski also invigorated the stage with her facial expressions. Her ability to express her emotions, whether it be love or a mental breakdown, was an asset to this production.


The set in this show, created by Brady Dunne, John Riris, and Luella Wallander, featured a complicated set of doors that not only held up against an onslaught of fumbles, tumbles, and rumbles, but it also rotated to show the backstage area in the second act. This set electrified and energized the show, allowing the actors to rush in and out from door to door and for the comedic action to flourish.


Another group that dug deep into their potential was the makeup duo Marissa McDonnell and Talia Roman. These two grasped not only the need for the actors to appear older, but also the need to show the striking age and character difference among the characters. They did so by varying the intensity of the makeup, with the effect of bolstering the uniqueness of each character and perfectly polishing the professionalism of this performance.


The commitment of both the actors and the backstage folk to flavor this production with their own stylings is what made this show as animated as it was. Washington-Liberty's performance may have wanted to keep the "Noises Off", but the praise for their hard work will keep on coming.


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