Onstage: Cast members mug for the camera during a recent rehearsal for Noises Off, which begins its run Oct. 3 in North Riverside. Photo by Amy Bamberger

While the actors and directors of the North Riverside Players have combined big time-talent with small-town charm time and again, for the first time in 24 years the theater group will finally be giving its audiences a behind-the-scenes experience.

During the first two weekends of October, the Players will stage Noises Off, by British playwright Michael Frayn. The play follows the on- and off-stage hijinks of the cast of a mediocre touring theater company as they make their way through a horrific dress rehearsal and even worse performance. The play, which debuted in 1982, is essentially a show within a show.

What makes North Riverside’s rendition of the show distinctive is that instead of merely rotating sets, the audience itself will be moving seats between acts.

Al Meyer, a North Riverside resident and vice president of the Players, says the group was looking to enhance the experience for both the actors and the audience in a fashion never seen before. 

“Its first act is played to the audience; the second act you see behind the scenes. And traditionally what people do, because they have fixed seating auditoriums, is they actually have to create the set and rotate it from the first act to the second act,” Meyer said. 

Meyer said they had to become a bit creative when it came to turning an ordinary multipurpose space into a one of a kind interactive theater space.

“We have essentially a black box space gymnasium, and we transform it into a theater,” he said. “From the first act to the second act, we are truly going to take the audience behind the scenes. To our knowledge since 1982 no one has done it this way.”

Directing Noises Off is Jay Fontanetta, a theater teacher at Metea Valley High School in Aurora who has directed on and off in North Riverside for 10 years. Fontanetta thinks it is very exciting to have a comedy that really engages the audience in a fashion that most shows do not.

“I think this show has varying degrees of making the audience part of the show as opposed to standard plays with the conventional fourth wall, where the actors don’t see the audience,” he said. “Every single act incorporates the audience more and more into the show.”

 Noises Off will be performed on Oct. 3, 4, 5, 10, 11 and 12. Friday and Saturday shows are at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday shows at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $18 for adults, $16 for seniors 60 and over, $14 for students and $13 for children under 12.

Tickets will be sold at the door but can be purchased ahead of time by calling 708-512-7015. Shows are in the gymnasium of the Village Commons, 2401 Desplaines Ave. For more information, visit their website at www.nrplayers.com.