Deep and Cloudy 

Our essayist’s non-review of MCT’s Noises Off

Do a “meta-textual” thing (per Blake) about Noises Off. 850 words. (note: ask Blake about September pay)

Noises Off is a play within a play. More than that, it is about the “processual flux of performance.” (footnote?) It is about making a play. More than that. It is about how making a play is like making life. It is about the stuff Erving Goffman liked to think about—the ways (per Schechner) “people greet each other, deceive each other, manager [manager?] their ‘fronts’ [their what??] and play out their psychosocial roles both consciously and unconsciously.”

(Should quote Goffman himself.)

To quote Goffman himself:

“The legitimate performances of everyday life are not ‘acted’ or ‘put on’ in the sense that the performer knows in advance just what he is going to do. ... the incapacity of the ordinary individual to formulate in advance the movements of his eyes and body does not mean (... and stuff like that...)

“In short, we all act better than we know how.”

Noises Off is about acting better than we know how.

(Are the MCT people going to get P.O.-ed at all this Victor Turnerish stuff? Did they think I was going to do a review? I shouldn’t have given them my name. I told T.C. Carlson, the director, that I write little arts essays for the Independent but that I don’t go see anything or talk to anybody, I just think about form, read scripts, contemplate objets d’art and write about the “work itself.” Then I had to talk to the publicity lady, then she put me back to T.C. So now he probably has his hopes all up anyway, plus he has my name.)

Noises Off is a farce, technically.

farce—a savory stuffing: Forcemeat. (huh?)

farce—a light dramatic composition marked by broadly satirical comedy and improbable plot.

Sorry, but I think it’s deeper than that. You don’t have a director named Lloyd playing God without it being halfway deep. (Quote from play here.)

Quoting from the play:

“Lloyd: I’m starting to know what God felt like when he sat there in the darkness creating the world. (takes a pill).

“Belinda: What did he feel like, Lloyd, my love?

“Lloyd: Very pleased he’d taken his Valium.

“Belinda: He had six days, of course. We’ve only got six hours.

“Lloyd: And God said, Where the hell is Tim?

(Work in MCT director here? I’m already at 491 words, though, and I haven’t got to the proscenium.)

Noises Off is about breaking the proscenium.

By breaking the proscenium (i.e., the “sacred liminal space”) we become aware of its existence.

(Is this stuff terribly dated and will the drama people at the university laugh at me? “Where’s she been since the ’80s?” they’ll laugh. My god, does she still dance disco? Well who cares, let them laugh! I didn’t get a master of arts in ethnodramaturgy to hide my bushel under a basket!)

(note: ask Blake about pay raise)

Noises Off is true theater, which is (I’m going to lay it on) the experience of “heightened vitality,” to quote Dewey again (did I quote him?).

Some more quoting:

“At its height [true theater] signified complete interpenetration of self and the world of objects and events. ... When this happens in a performance, what may be produced is what d’Aquili and Laughlin (d’Aquili et al. l979:177) call a ‘brief ecstatic state and sense of union [often lasting only a few seconds][(which)] may often be described as no more than a shiver running down the back at a certain point.’”

(611 words.)

“This shiver has to be won, though, to be a ‘consummation,’ after working through a tangle of conflicts and disharmonies.

(631 words.)

“Theater best of all exemplifies Thomas Hardy’s dictum: ‘If a way to the better there be, it exacts a full look at the worst.’”

(655 words.)

To conclude—(quote from play)

“Frederick (to Lloyd): But why do I take the things off into the study? Wouldn’t it be more natural if I left them on?

“Lloyd: No.

“Frederick: I just thought it might somehow be more logical.

“Lloyd: No.

“Frederick: Lloyd, I know it’s a bit late in the day to go into all this. ...

“Lloyd: No, Freddie, we’ve got several more minutes left before we open.

“Frederick: Thank you, Lloyd. As long as we’re not too pushed. But I’ve never understood why he carries an overnight bag and a box of groceries into the study to look at his mail. ...

“Lloyd: Freddie, love, why does anyone do anything? Why does that other idiot walk out through the front door holding two plates of sardines? (To Garry: I’m not getting at you, love.)

“Garry: Of course not, love. (To Frederick:) I mean, why do I? (To Lloyd:) I mean, Jesus, when you come to think of it, why do I?

“Lloyd: Who knows?

“Garry: Who knows, you see, Freddie, love?

“Lloyd (To Frederick): The wellsprings of human action are deep and cloudy. Maybe something happened to you as a small child which made you frightened to let go of groceries.

“Belinda: Or it could be genetic.

“Garry: Yes, it could be, you know.

“Lloyd: It could be.”

(850 words.)

Noises Off will continue to run Oct. 21-24 at the MCT Center for the Performing Arts. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evening performances are at 8 p.m. Sunday evening performance is at 6:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday matinees are at 2 p.m. Call 728-PLAY (728-7529) for some information you can understand the first time.

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