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Theater: My 2 Cents, Musicals for a Penny-
Shadowland Stages - Noises Off!

By Jacquie Wolf
arttimesjournal July 4, 2017

African-American singer-comedian  Bert Williams in blackface
Entrance to Shadowland Stages

I begin my critical journey with the whole 2 cents but you should be made aware that Musical Theatre must achieve fantastical heights to get more than a penny from me!

The last-minute invitation to see Noises Off!, written by Michael Frayn at the Shadowland Stages (formerly known as Shadowland Theatre) in Ellenville, was just the excuse I needed to back out of my business networking commitment. Not a lover of farcical comedy I was nevertheless enticed by the opportunity to expand my experience and enjoy the companionable (long) ride to the middle of nowhere- I mean Ellenville!

Conversation aside, the drive out on Route 209 can be quite beautiful with rolling farmland and quaint, “blink and you’ll miss ‘em” small towns. 55 minutes later we arrived at the center of town. Ok, so the center of town is one fairly populated block surrounded by a lot of… not much. Abandoned factories and seemingly once thriving businesses more than dot the landscape but once you’ve entered the bubble of “the center of town” it actually feels almost “bustling”, you know, for the middle of nowhere. We enjoyed a fajita dinner special at Gaby’s Cafe but next time (yes, there may well be a next time!) we hope that Aroma Thyme Bistro will be able to handle our “walk in” status. There are several other good choices for dining so do plan a complete evening out.

The Shadowland Stages has been lovingly redesigned, restored, and remodeled. The entrance to the theater is a glamorous homage to the heyday of Art Deco. There is not a seat in the house that is not a perfect view. All the seats are what would be the Orchestra section in any other theater. Being a tad on the larger side I wouldn’t mind a skosh more room in the somewhat basic, almost retro, movie theater seats.

We were welcomed by the new executive managing director, Bradley Diuguid who thanked an impressive list of sponsors who have made Shadowland Stage’s renaissance possible.

African-American singer-comedian  Bert Williams in blackface
Set of Noises Off

The set was quite impressive, large scale, with lots of doors! (Apparently doors are key to a farce, and sardines!) The play opens and we think we are watching a play but suddenly a voice calls out “Leave the phone, take the sardines!” and we are quickly introduced to the “director” and realize we are witnessing the dress rehearsal. Everyone is tired and not quite off book and short of knowing their marks and cues and we get to see the interplay of actors and characters performing their craft. There is much silliness, opening, closing and slamming of doors and a disappearing re-appearing plate or two, of sardines, cues missed, lines lost and just when I am thinking “I just really don’t enjoy slapstick humor, can I really make it to the end?” we arrive at intermission. OK good, a chance to stretch my legs and switch my seat to one on the side, still with a perfect view, but a little roomier. (I can’t bring myself to make a sardine joke but you know it could easily be done!)

The brief respite from not funny, (others seemed to be enjoying it) gave me time to explore the facilities and oddly, it is worth mentioning that the lavatory was quite nicely equipped and remodeled as well!

Act II begins with a reversal of perspective. We are now watching the same play, some months later, on tour, from backstage! We can hear the, by now, familiar dialogue on the other side of the set but now we are privy to the goings on in the wings. Still silly but the shift in perspective is such a clever device that I find I am enjoying it! The cast goes wholeheartedly on, leaving nothing in reserve. They gave it their all and it was a pleasure!

Directed by Brendan Burke and Catherine Doherty the character’s plights seem almost real. I have not named any particular actor because there was no one standout. The ensemble cast worked marvelously together and even the roles with fewer lines were intrinsic to the development of the play and I believe that no one missed a beat. Bravo to them all!

As of this writing this play has closed but there are still several more coming in the Summer 2017 season; The Jag, The Foreigner, Murder for Two, Ripcord, and Disgraced. Worth the trip to nowhere.