This is Part 2 in a series of interviews with the cast and director of 1st Stage’s production of Noises Off. Meet Mario Baldessari.
Joel: Why did you want to become a member of the cast of Noises Off?
Mario: I did it mainly to not disappoint Doug Wilder, the director, who said he couldn’t think of anyone better suited to play an old, broken-down drunk.
Who do you play in the show and how do you relate to him?
I play Selsdon Mowbray, a 70-year-old Shakespearean actor down on his luck as a result of his affinity for whiskey – who’s brought out of retirement by a friend to do a British farce. I relate to the idea of being given a last chance for redemption.
What is the play about from the point of view of Selsdon Mowbray?
It’s about Selsdon’s chance to redeem himself in the eyes of the actress Dotty Otley – his friend who got him hired.
What do you admire most about Selsdon?
I love that he tackles a tiny cameo appearance in a farce with the same gusto as if he were playing the lead in a Shakespeare play. I love the idea that he always thinks he’s performing … Why tell people about a conversation you overheard when you can reenact it for him? I love the idea that his attempt to stay sober and prove himself in one last stage appearance is undone by the stress of working with a cast that’s falling apart around him.
What did you learn about yourself as an actor while rehearsing and performing this crazy show?
I learned that I love slamming doors. We don’t get to do that enough in real life.
What is the nuttiest thing that has happened in rehearsals and on stage?
Selsdon is supposed to be asleep somewhere in the theater for the first 15 minutes of the play, so I’ve been pretending to sleep in the metal stairwell that leads up to the audience’s seats. I’ve had latecomers stop to inquire if I’m homeless or whether I need assistance getting up the stairs.
What are you doing to keep up your energy?
Power Bars and Diet Coke.
What character is so much like you and why?
I like Dotty Otley. I think I’ve always wanted to be a sassy maid.
What line that someone else says is your favorite?
I love a line from Act III that Tim the Stage Manager – exasperated by the cast’s behind-the-scenes behavior – says to an audience that’s been waiting patiently for the play to begin, “Sit back and enjoy the remains of the evening.”
What is the toughest scene for you and which scene is your favorite?
I think the toughest scene is Act II, which is really an extended, choreographed lazzi. My favorite moment is Selsdon’s first entrance through the window, when he gives it everything he’s got – only to discover he’s made his entrance five pages early.
What are you doing next on the stage after Noises Off closes?
What do you want audiences to take with them after seeing Noises Off?
I want them to take a stack of postcards for the show and hand them out to their friends. Come have a good laugh and forget your worries!
Interviews with the cast and director by Joel Markowitz on DCMetroTheaterArts:
Making Some Noise: Behind the Scenes of 1st Stage’s ‘Noises Off’: Part 1: Director Doug Wilder.
Making Some Noise: Behind the Scenes of 1st Stage’s ‘Noises Off’: Part 2: Mario Baldessari (Selsdon).
-Making Some Noise: Behind the Scenes of 1st Stage’s ‘Noises Off’: Part 3: Matthew Pauli (Lloyd).
–Making Some Noise: Behind the Scenes of 1st Stage’s ‘Noises Off’: Part 4: Kate Karczewski (Poppy).
–Making Some Noise: Behind the Scenes of 1st Stage’s ‘Noises Off’: Part 5: Blair Bowers (Brooke).