The Rehearsal Theater Review - The Noise Within's Production Ends its Season With an Unsettling Mixture of Farce and Tragedy

The Count (Robertson Dean) woos Lucille (Lenne Klingaman) while Hero (Geoff Elliott, center) looks on

(Glendale, CA) May 24, 2009 – Famed French playwright Jean Anouilh believed that his plays fell into several categories based on their themes and tones, including the “pink” (fantasy), “black” (tragic realism), and the “costumed” (historical), just to name a few. As far as THE REHEARSAL is concerned, this comic-drama would be in the “jarring” (bitter humor) category. The first two acts move like a farce penned by Anouilh’s inspiration, Moliere. However, in the third act, the characters’ true dark natures create a series of events which reveal the ugly facets of early 20th century French upper class. And one of the most critically acclaimed theaters in Southern California reveals this decadance with a deft, creative hand. Jean Anouilh's tragic-comedy, THE REHEARSAL, expertly reveals the corruption of the decadent rich, courtesy of The Noise Within Theater Company.

Like Moliere, Anouilh likes to mix his farce with serious themes by delving into various subject matters such as politics and social class. Although the play takes place in 1950, all the characters are dressed in 18th century garb. French aristocrats Count Tiger and his Countess visit a relative’s chateau to perform Marivaux’s comedy, THE INCONSISTANCY, for their peers and a large group of orphans. This harmonious couple is joined by their mutual lovers, Hortensia and Villebosse. Their open infidelity, in the hands of the talented Anouilh, is incredibly comical because of their frankness about the topic, as well as how inept and clingy their respective paramours are. Also joining them in the production is Tiger’s childhood friend, Hero, who is a proud, wise drunk who enjoys being the voyeur to everyone’s mediocre behavior. But when the orphan’s virginal nurse, Lucille, is also cast in the play, the libidinous Count actually falls in love with her, causing much turmoil to the decadent “stability” of the court. And this disharmony drives these pleasure seekers to ruin the naive Lucille by any means necessary.
 
 

Hortensia (Jill Hill) pleads to The Count (Robertson Dean) regarding his new love


 
  Julia Rodriguez-Elliott’s direction serves as the production’s solid foundation and the acting is something to behold. As the libertine Count Tiger, Robertson Dean’s presence is amazing, from his tall stature to his deep, baritone voice. His eloquence of Tiger’s dialogue is quite profound, similar to watching a cellist playing a solo during a sonata. His versatility enhances the sophisticated nature of Anouilh’s text.  And Dean’s emotional range of the Count is dynamic. His wit is biting when placating his lover, Hortensia (a wonderfully shrew-like performance by Jill Hill) and his admiration and courtesy for his wife (portrayed with duplicitous envy by Susan Angelo) is genuinely sincere.

But Dean reveals both his predatory and tender moments to the object of his affection, Lucille. Lenne Klingaman is perfectly cast as his foil and soon-to-be lover. She exudes a certain level of sweet virtue that adds to her strength and integrity. Dean’s and Klingaman’s chemistry is electrifying. When Tiger attempts to seduce Lucille as he has done with previous conquests, the nurse kindly rebuffs him, ironically teaching the older man how true, unconditional love can be felt. The scene is reminiscent of RICHARD III when Richard seduces Lady Anne.  However, Lucille’s compassionate refusal wins both Tiger’s heart and respect. After absorbing this education, The Count then offers to help finance her schooling and establish her social standing, without asking for anything in return, even to go so far as to indicate that he wouldn’t see her again. This truly wins her heart and the warmth they both share with each other is breathtaking.
 
 

The Countess (Susan Angelo, center)becomes jealous when The Count (Robertson Dean) shows interest in Lucille (Lenne Klingaman)

But this newfound love serves as an unhealthy catalyst in fueling the fires of envy within the members of the court. The most tragic action is perpetrated by Hero. Out of all the characters, Geoff Elliott’s portrayal would be the most symbolic regarding how the corruption of the aristocracy can destroy purity. Elliott looks like a weathered and soiled version of Geoffrey Rush’s Marquis de Sade from QUILLS. Unshaven, an injured leg, cold sores, and always in an alcoholic stupor, Elliott’s Hero is physically vile, but he demonstrates a charismatic charm through his cynicism. He sits on the sidelines, savoring and mocking the pretentiousness and snobbery of his contemporaries. But then Elliott displays Hero’s own self-hatred with unsettling ease as he is prompted by The Countess to seduce and emotionally destroy Lucille, thereby driving her away from her beloved Tiger. We discover how 30 years earlier, Tiger drove Hero’s own first love away, resulting in this tragic character slowly spiraling downward into alcoholic debauchery. And when he sees both Tiger and Lucille together, Elliot’s seductive charm becomes dark and dangerous.  He is brilliant in the transformation of this ironically-named “Hero”, adding more subtext and dimensionality, right up to the very last line of the play, which powerfully illustrates how jealousy and decadence can be fueled by status and how it can corrupt a person’s soul, especially when it comes to love. THE REHEARSAL serves as a triumphant epilogue to The Noise Within’s stellar 2008-2009 season, creating much anticipation for 2009-2010.
 

Hortensia (Jill Hill) and Hero (Geoff Elliott) laugh at the absurdity during a rehearsal


 
The Rehearsal opened April 18, 2009 and ran through May 24, 2009


A Noise Within
234 South Brand Boulevard
Glendale, CA 91204

online: www.anoisewithin.org

Photos by: Craig Schwartz
 

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