To understand Noises Off it helps to know Murphy’s Law and O’Toole’s Commentary on Murphy’s Law aka O’Toole’s Corollary. Murphy’s Law says if anything can go wrong, it will. O’Toole’s Corollary says Murphy was an optimist. And if the purpose of theater is to hold a mirror up to ourselves so we can see clearly who and what we are then Noises Off tells us we are all doomed.
Our two heroes are 49-year-old Sterling and his 17-year-old niece Becky. Sterling is a recluse hiding out in a Costa Rican jungle far from any large city. He was a lawyer caught up in some nasty, illegal financial dealings. He claims ignorance of what happened except that some people were hurt and he made a lot of money. He was never involved in the firm’s financial dealings. He and his partner were put on trial. His partner went to jail for 15 years, but Sterling was acquitted. Nonetheless, he fled the shame of it all to a Costa Rican jungle years ago where he lives sparingly if comfortably. He takes daily walks in a labyrinth of his own design and construction. His labyrinth is where he goes to think things through and to heal his troubled soul. It is more understandable to him than the confusing, troublesome maze he left behind.
Doctor X is a certifiable, industrial-strength nogoodnik making Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi look like Mary Poppins. She sees her face like a squirming bowl of worms. I have no idea what that means. Okay, let’s take it to mean that she does not see herself as a good looking gal. The love of her life (the nurse) has a face like a china plate. Maybe that means she has a face like a beautiful piece of Wedgewood china, like a creamy white cameo against a field of pale, delicate blue. Okay, that makes sense. Let’s go with that one, too.
Picture this; the date is 1815 in the Frankenstein Castle on the Rhine River in Germany. The family gathers for a holiday celebration, with all the peculiarities you would expect from a gathering at the Frankenstein’s Castle. Add to this the flavor of ballet and the thread of a classic Christmas tale, and you have this year’s “Son of a Buttcracker.”
The Ghost of Christmas Past, Present, and Future leads us through a futile attempt to redeem intensely practical Scrooge. Of course, it doesn’t work. She (the Ghost) is a hopeless underachiever. She transports us from time to time and place to place and invariably ends up somewhere other than her intended destination. But Scrooge is irredeemable. He hates Christmas. Durang divides Mrs. Cratchit into two, a nice Mrs. Cratchit married to Bob Cratchit and a nasty Mrs. Cratchit who keeps trying to kill herself by jumping off London Bridge. Scrooge, bah humbugging his way through the play, falls in love with nasty Mrs. Cratchit. Who woulda thunk? But, it seems like a perfect match.
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