Some things just have to be mentioned in the same breath. Like Beethoven and the Ninth Symphony. Or Sean Connery and James Bond. Or John Elway and “The Drive.”
So now that my friend Brie Timms has taken her final bows, it’s only right that someone brings up “Noises Off.”
If you don’t know the show, “Noises Off” takes every nightmare an actor’s ever had about the stage and blends it into a smoothie. It’s a comedy – no, an outright farce – where backstage jealousies lead to onstage chaos, with stalled entrances, sabotaged props, and an increasingly bedraggled cast. It’s also a notoriously difficult show to do, including a stretch where the story has NO dialogue for several minutes, relying on perfectly-timed action to get the laughs.
Brie came back to that show again. And again. And again.
No surprise. It fit her so well.
Let me back up: I’m not calling her a soap opera on wheels. Quite the opposite. Brie didn’t have time for unnecessary drama. Anything that distracted from the show didn’t belong. It’s the kind of focus that made her such a terrifying Nurse Ratched – a role quite opposite her real-life personality – and that built fantastic loyalty in her casts whenever she directed.
But she understood the paradox behind the best comedies. It’s an upside-down world where the golden rules are as follows:
- Silly is funniest when it’s taken seriously.
- It takes great acting to portray “bad acting.”
- Division onstage requires tight teamwork backstage.
- And most of all, if you want chaos, you have to plan for it.
Brie loved that. Especially the last one. And because of it, whenever she took on “Noises Off,” it ran like a Swiss watch. But a lot funnier.
And now that she’s gone, it feels like a gear in the watch is missing.
But even as the show goes on without her, I think there’s still something to be said for living an upside-down life.
Unlike comedies, life doesn’t give most of us the luxury of planning our chaos, which may explain why it’s often more tiring than funny. But it does tend to send us situations that work best when we flip the script. Where paradoxes make sense.
And the biggest one is that in a world ruled by isolation, we need each other more than ever.
Over nearly two years, we’ve all learned the pandemic litany. Cover your face. Wash your hands. Get your shots. And keep your distance. But we don’t always talk about the why. Maybe it just seems too obvious – in virus times, a person’s got to protect themselves, right?
But it’s not about each of us. It’s about each other. It’s about making ourselves living breakpoints so that the virus doesn’t wreak further havoc among all of us, especially among the old, the sick and the vulnerable.
When we think of our neighbors first, we win.
Teamwork matters. In comedy. In disasters. In life. And when it’s a teamwork born of compassion, one where we each give a little of our strength to help another, that makes all of us stronger.
I wish the team still had Brie in it. We need her. We need all our loving storytellers. But if we keep up that best paradox of all – to help yourself, help another – then I think we’ve kept one of the best parts of her, too.
And that’s a showstopper even “Noises Off” can’t beat.