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Chaos abounds in ‘noises off’

Tristan Johnson and Kalley Waller (in background) watch as Jacob Kempenich chokes down some sardines. Photo by Brian Basham/Record

Mention the play “Noises Off” and it’s likely that most people won’t know what the play is about — if they’ve heard of it at all.

“That’s one of the reasons I picked it again,” Director Mark Everson said.

“Noises Off” is the spring play at the Detroit Lakes High School. It hits the George Simson stage in the Detroit Lakes Middle School Thursday-Saturday at 7:30 each night.

“It’s only the funniest play,” Everson said. “Probably one of my favorites.”

“Noises Off” is a play within a play. It’s aa British comedy — though none of the characters in this rendition will be British — that follows a group of actors both onstage and backstage.

It starts out on the stage of the play “Nothing On.” The characters are running through their lines as usual, but then things start to fall apart. The second act comes and it shows the behind the scenes of the play and how the actors are actually getting along — and it’s not good.

“They are the biggest dysfunctional family ever,” Everson said.

The second act of the play is filled with physical comedy and a lot less lines to learn. But, students had to learn the art — and importance — of timing instead.

“You have to be spot on or everything is thrown off,” said Gunnar Michon, who plays Garry Lejeune.

Being thrown off during practices has led to slammed fingers, splinters, tripping and more minor injuries on set.

“I get thrown through a window,” Tristan John-son said of his character Selsdon Mowbray, who Johnson describes as a 70-year-old who likes his drinks.

Not only is there the choreography of the physical side of the stage, the actors also have to sync up the stuff going on in the “Nothing On” production with what’s going on backstage.

“This is the hardest show and this is my eighth production,” said Emma Wood, who plays who plays Poppy Norton-Taylor. “It’s physically demanding.”

“It’s not only vocal comedy but physical comedy,” said Jacob Kempenich, who plays Frederick Fellowes — which makes it more interesting, he added.

“They’re going for a laugh every possible chance,” Everson said of his actors. “They’ve done a remarkable job.”

“It’s definitely a lot more intricate and demanding, and definitely more comedy,” said Kalley Waller, who plays Belinda Blair. “I’m definitely getting a workout – more cardio than ever before.”

By the time the third act of the play comes around and returns to the “Nothing On” stage, “it’s a total disaster by that point,” Everson said.

The actors are now showing their dysfunction and inability to even get along for the sake of their own performance.

“I play the director and try to keep everything running smoothly, so I do a lot of yelling at people. That’s fun,” said Austin Weber, who plays Lloyd Dallas.

This is Weber’s first production, and he’s had a lot of fun participating in it.

“I didn’t know what the play was about but I’m having a lot of fun,” he said.

Emilee Freeman, who plays Brooke Ashton, said it’s been fun to watch Weber change over the progression of the play.

To make this production come together, “the set is another character,” Everson said. “It’s an 11th cast member.”

The set turns on wheels to show both sides — the living room of “Nothing On” and the backstage side, where it all falls apart.

And with two sides to the set also comes two sides to each character. The actors have to play dual roles — one from the “Nothing On” production and one of the actors playing those characters.

(Confused yet?)

“It’s much more complicated where you have two characters,” Wood said.

“It’s crazy,” added Ma-son Wentz, who plays Tim Allgood.

Michon said he usually plays more serious roles in his productions, “so this is a new bright side of my day.”

“This is one of the funniest things I’ve been in,” agreed Johnson. “We can’t go five minutes without someone laughing.”

“Five seconds for me,” Kendra Gilsdorf said. She serves as the assistant director for the production.

“It’s great, very energetic. They have the best facial expressions ever,” she added.

Anderson said she read that “Noises Off” was the funniest farce ever writ-ten, and “I would have to agree with that.”

That farce gives the students the ability to hone other talents, like adlibbing and being creative rather than just memorizing lines.

“There has not been one rehearsal that has ever been the same,” Everson said.

“There’s more room for error,” but also more room for being creative and making the production even better, Ander-son said of being able to adlib as they go along.

Freeman said that she has so many notes written along the side of her script that she’s not even sure what the original lines were anymore.

Weber agrees. He has a rant in one part of the play, and he said he’s never said the same thing twice.

“It’s really, really funny,” Wood said, encouraging the public to attend.

“Noises Off” will be staged nightly, April 25-27 at 7:30 p.m. in the Detroit Lakes Middle School. Tickets are on sale at Central Market.

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.