Altoona Community Theatre's production of "Noises Off" is back on the local stage after taking a bow 20 years ago.
ACT will present a 20th anniversary production of Michael Frayn's comedy about a play within a play at the Mishler Theater on Feb. 14 to 17.
Kate Wolf, who was in ACT's 1993 production, is directing the anniversary show.
Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich
The cast of ACT’s “Noises Off” includes (from left) Katie Kensinger, Lacey Lichvar and Sam Wagner.
"I am really enjoying being 'on the other side of the table' for this show," she said. "It was one my favorite shows to act in at ACT, and when I heard that they were producing it again 20 years later, I was really excited at the prospect of directing it."
Wolf has directed shows for the ACT troupe before, including "The Producers" and "Crimes of the Heart," and acted in shows such as "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf?" and "Steel Magnolias."
She has also directed the musicals at Central Cambria High School for nine years.
If you go
What: "Noises Off," presented by Altoona Community Theatre
When: 8 p.m. Feb. 14 to 16, and 2 p.m. Feb. 17
Where: Mishler Theatre, 1208 12th Ave., Altoona
Tickets: $20 for adults, $15 for students. Tickets are available by calling the box office at 943-4357 or online at www.altoonacommunitytheatre.com
The production comes with "unique and challenging" technical aspects, Wolf said.
"The show is about a troupe of actors who, in Act One, are rehearsing on their set for a tawdry British comedy they are about to perform," she said. "In Act Two, we see the backstage backbiting and craziness two months into their tour with the show. And the audience literally sees this from 'backstage': the set turns 180 degrees so that we witness first-hand all of the fights, scrambling for props, missed entrances and hysterical personality conflicts that go on behind the scenes.
"For Act Three, the set turns back around again and we see the hilarious mess the show has dissolved into on its last night."
Wolf said she likes the "teaching aspect of directing a show," and the cast, including her husband, Eric, who also acted in the 1993 show, "has been a fabulous cast to work with."
"It is just so darn funny," Eric Wolf said of what he enjoys about the show. "Even 20 years later, 'Noises Off' is still considered one of the best modern comedies. Three weeks into rehearsal, we are still backstage laughing at what is happening onstage. This entire cast really knows how to 'bring the funny' in delivering their lines and in nailing the physical comedy."
Wolf was last seen in ACT's production of "The Drowsy Chaperone."
As for coming back to the show, he said, "It's a great feeling, like re-connecting with an old friend. At the earlier rehearsals, I could hear dialogue by the actors 20 years ago playing in my head. On the other hand, it's a whole new group of very talented people. I realized very early on that I really needed to bring my 'A game' to keep up with them."
Wolf plays Selsdon Mowbry, an aging actor who drinks.
"My character is an older actor who has been in the theater his entire life," he said of how he is approaching his role. "He's lucky to have this job, but he doesn't seem to realize it. He doesn't hear very well and has trouble remembering his lines, which I can relate to now that I'm older. But he is very good-hearted and gets along with everybody. This role doesn't have a lot of stage time, but it has some great lines. Our stage manager, Bill Shoemaker, played the part 20 years ago, and he was terrific. So I really feel some pressure to do a good job with it."
Cast members Shaun McMurtrie and Lacey Lichvar are new to the ACT stage, and Martha Traverse is returning to the Mishler stage after 17 years.
"They are all experienced, talented and energetic actors who know how to do comedy," Kate Wolf said. "The stage managers and I are still laughing at every rehearsal, and the audiences are in for a treat."
Traverse, who plays Dotty and Mrs. Clackett, said the Mishler is "so full of rich theatrical history-a true legit house from the old days when Altoona was part of the professional circuit. It really feels like a Broadway stage, and there's nothing like playing to ACT audiences."
Katie Kensinger, who plays the parts of Brooke Ashton, an actress, and Vicki, the character Brooke plays in the play within the play.
"The rehearsal process has been so much fun," Kensinger said. "It is definitely one of the most challenging shows I've ever worked on, both physically and mentally. Not only does 'Noises Off' have a play within the play, but we also perform that play three times, from different perspectives. Each time we do it, the lines are a little different, depending on what is happening with the characters' relationships off stage. On top of that, the show is a fast-paced, madcap farce that takes place on a two-story set with stair cases that we're constantly running up and down, eight doors that we're popping in and out of, and even a window that some characters enter through. We all get a great physical work out with this show."
She has enjoyed working with the talented and experienced cast who are giving the show their all, she said.
"We work hard and we laugh hard at rehearsals. The play provides so much opportunity for actors to put their own comedic stamps on roles, and every night, I find myself bursting into fits of laughter when I see my fellow actors discover new funny moments," she said. "Even though the show may seem like a fluffy comedy at surface level, we've put quite a bit of thought into creating our characters. We talk a lot about the characters' off-stage relationships with each other and their back stories, because much of the humor in Acts 2 and 3 comes out of bumps in those relationships."
Kate Wolf counts 'Noises Off' in her favorites.
"This show is one of my favorites because it's not just great farce - slamming doors, mistaken identities, ridiculous compounding problems and physical comedy - but it is also very cleverly written," she said. "It is a satirical look at the backstage dramas and shenanigans of being involved in a theatrical production and that really appeals to me having been a part of many shows in both onstage and offstage roles."
Audiences will not leave disappointed, according to Wolf.
"I think audiences will get a night of great entertainment in a beautiful theater," she said. "What better way to chase away the winter blahs than to laugh yourself silly and go home feeling energized and happy."
Mirror Staff Writer Amanda Gabeletto is at 949-7030.