Putting on ‘Noises Off’: An interview with director, cast of upcoming BareStage show

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For its fall play, BareStage Productions will be presenting “Noises Off,” a comedy about a theater company putting on a play within a play and the resulting antics that ensue both on the stage and off it. Written by Michael Frayn, this 1982 play is being brought to Berkeley by director Natasha Munasinghe. Munasinghe, along with actors Theo Rosenfeld and Tanvi Agrawal, who play Garry and Lloyd respectively, sat down with The Daily Californian to talk about the upcoming production.

Munasinghe, Rosenfeld and Agrawal have all participated in BareStage Productions prior to “Noises Off,” with both Munasinghe and Rosenfeld discovering BareStage when they saw a poster advertising for auditions. Agrawal, meanwhile, sought BareStage out themselves, knowing they wanted to be part of student-led theater when coming to Cal. BareStage takes up a large part of all their lives — rehearsals run four hours a day, six days a week — but this doesn’t scare them off.

You learn to balance it with school,” Munasinghe said. “Berkeley can get so stressful and so hard, but having that fun thing that you do that BareStage provides really balances everything out, and I think it is definitely one of those things that people who are involved want to be doing it, and I couldn’t imagine spending my time doing anything else.”

That large time commitment isn’t without purpose –– the cast and crew only have about a month and a half to rehearse the whole show, as well as build and decorate the rotating set and prepare costumes for all the actors.

All three were immensely proud of the work they had already completed by the week leading up to tech week, which is the final week before the show when the cast and crew do their final run-throughs and make any final adjustments.

I was so eager to see what this production would be like, because I knew it would be such challenging show, so I really wanted to be a part of it so I could see that magic happen,” Agrawal said.

Rosenfeld added, “There’s always the moment in every show when you’re up there on stage in your costume in your set, everyone’s in their character and you think back to where you started and where you came from and that in itself is an achievement, and I think one of the most special things about theater at Berkeley is just creating something out of nothing and putting it on for everyone to see.”

As opening night nears, Munasinghe, as director, gets an opportunity to reflect as well on the production as a whole.  

“It’s exciting for me as a director to see my lovely actors coming into their roles and really understanding the physicality of it all — to see them actually transforming into new people,” said Munasinghe. “I’m really lucky to have such a just phenomenal team of student designers from set designers to costume designers, sound, and then this cast. It’s all just been such an amazing process to me, and I’m excited to see it finally all come together within these final few days.”

“Noises Off” is a classic slapstick farce different from the majority of what is usually put on in the Bay Area. Munasinghe wants to convince her audience that seeing a comedy like “Noises Off” is well worthwhile in an age in which the general thought is everything should be political or have a strong moral message.

“Sometimes I see shows [in the Bay Area] and it feels so above and beyond my intellectual understanding and I find myself leaving the theater thinking ‘What just happened?’ ” she explained. “ ‘Noises Off’ is simply an homage to the theater … all its faults, everything that’s great about it, the things that we try to hide. And yet the play celebrates all those things and gives the audience that may not typically get to see this side of it a chance to see this world that we all love and are a part of. It’s a very inclusive show, and I think it’s a show for everybody and a good time. I want people to leave going ‘That was so entertaining, that was so funny’ because those are such basic things about entertainment and yet they’re so forgotten.”

“Noises Off” is, at its essence, a tribute to the theater itself — a comedy about what actually happens in the wings while the actors on stage are telling their audience a different story. BareStage Productions has been working all semester to create the best version of the play that Frayn wrote decades ago, and they hope that they pull off a show, unique in the Bay Area, that their audience can enjoy watching just as much as the cast and crew enjoyed making.

“Noises Off” is playing at the Choral Rehearsal Hall on Oct. 13, 14, 20 and 21 at 8 p.m. and Oct. 15 and 22 at 5 p.m. Tickets can be purchased here.

Contact Sydney Rodosevich at [email protected].

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