No offense to the actors, but the star of the show opening at the Coaster Theatre Playhouse on Friday, March 16, may be the set.
Built by father-son team Jerry and Mick Alderman, the cleverly designed revolving scenery is the centerpiece of “Noises Off.”
The comedy by British playwright Michael Frayn takes place backstage at a theater. The actors are trying to stage a sex farce called “Nothing On” — but there’s comic mayhem when everything goes wrong and their rivalries and foibles are exposed.
Mick Alderman said he delighted at the chance to direct the show. “I’m always up for a challenge and every show has either creative or technical challenges.”
The set demands two levels with eight doors, two staircases and one window. “It’s a challenge to do at the Coaster because it’s only 14 feet high and each level must be 7 foot maximum,” he said. “I came up with the concept, and we figured it out.”
His father, Jerry Alderman, is known for his firefighting leadership but has significant construction and design experience. He first sketched the structure — measured to the inch — on multiple pages of penciled drawings. “He has the artistic talent, I have to try to make it happen!” Jerry Alderman said, laughing when asked about working with his son.
Figuring out such things is not new. In 1998, a four-door sedan had to be turned sideways when hauled into Astoria’s Performing Arts Center for a Mick Alderman show called “Road to Nowhere.”
The set for “Noises Off” is three sturdy wooden pieces, all on wheels. With help from the actors and stage crew, the center pivots, so during the second of the three acts the audience views a theatrical scene as if from “backstage.”
The Aldermans began building two months ago during breaks between rehearsals of another Coaster play, “Fit to Kill.”
“There’s no way to rehearse without the set in place,” said Mick Alderman. “It’s so physical — this is an action play. The challenge for the actors is that it all moves at a lightning pace. They don’t always have lines — they have to cue off stuff, listen and remember what they are supposed to be doing.”
He likened it to a crazy inventor’s work. “With nine people, it’s an amazing Rube Goldberg process. If one person is not where they need to be at that moment, the whole thing falls apart.”
Frayn reportedly dreamed up “Noises Off” after watching from backstage in 1970 while Lynn Redgrave performed in another farce he had written. The title comes from a script stage direction. It won awards during its first five-year run in London and has seen three productions on Broadway, one winning a Tony for Katie Finneran. A 1992 movie version starred Michael Caine and Carrol Burnett.
Roles include a director involved in a love triangle, a stuttering leading man, an actress who misplaces her contact lenses, a deaf actor with a drinking problem and the long-suffering stage manager who tries to fix everything.
Coaster cast members are Cathey Ryan, David Ridley, Daric Moore, Katherine Lacaze, Katrina Godderz, William Ham, Ann Bronson, Richard Bowman and Thomas Ryan; lighting operator Ryan Hull also appears.
“It is the most challenging rehearsal process,” said Moore, who has to race up staircases, cope with door handles falling off, and isn’t the only one who slips on a plate of sardines. “It’s like a giant choreographed dance — the whole thing depends on a bunch of people, not just one or two.”
Thomas Ryan appears with his wife, Cathey. “This play is about a play that is dying, it’s never coming together,” he said. “At the ending of the play, it’s chaos. We are so familiar with it that it doesn’t matter what you say — you just keep going.”
The Coaster production features costumes by Judith Light, with each character having a color theme.
Alderman said friends who attended other productions have said it is the funniest play they have seen.
“If you like to laugh, you’ll like this,” he said. “At the first rehearsal, the actors had barely met each other and within an hour they were in stitches.
“You can’t catch your breath — it’s one thing on top of another. If you like the old Benny Hill comedies, this is definitely the show for you.”
A farce by Michael Frayn, directed by Mick Alderman
Some adult themes
Coaster Theatre Playhouse, 108 N. Hemlock St., Cannon Beach
7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays: March 16-17, 23-24, 30-31, April 6-7, 13-14 and 20-21;
3 p.m. Sunday, March 25, and Sunday, April 8
Admission $20 or $25
Information at coastertheatre.com
‘It’s like a giant choreographed dance.’
— Daric Moore
actor in ‘Noises Off’