Regional Reviews: San Francisco
Transparent Theatre Presents A World Premiere Of The RehEARsal
Also see Richard's review of Teatro ZinZanni
The Transparent Company of Berkeley is presenting the world premiere of Mark Chappell and Alan Connor's comedy farce The RehEARsal. These two Englishmen are better known in the UK; Chappell is a screenplay writer while Connor is a well known British television personality. The RehEARsal title is a play on words in reference to the French classic by Jean Anouith with the English title of The Rehearsal.
This current farce is about a group of actors rehearsing a one act unfinished drama called The Ear by a fictional Hungarian playwright named Alexander Lubbeck who died in prison. The current production has been described as a one act play in three acts with the first act being set two weeks before the actual opening. It is a calamitous rehearsal of egos and long open ended discussions about the multiple layers of meaning behind every other word in the play. Sometimes the writing and some of the acting goes a little over the top and it can be a little wearying. During this period, we see many complications going on, including jealous actors, infatuations with other members, faithlessness and even some cell phone disruptions. The second act is the tech rehearsal which is just two days before the actual opening. There is a steady corrosion of nerves due to those complications that have been happening during the rehearsal.
After a 15 minute intermission, we come back to the theater with a new program of The Ear, and we see a completely different drama from what the fictitious Lubbeck had intended. The Ear is the symbolic drama of a beet farmer who trades his prize cow for a giant ear. The actors in the first act have been asked what they think the enormous ear represents and each gives a different answer. The third act incorporates all of the dialogue that was used during the rehearsals but it has a different effect. However, they have still not resolved all of the loose ends of the first and second acts.
Most people who see The RehEARsal will see that this is an homage to Michael Fryan's Noises Off and you can't help but make comparisons. The main difference is that The RehEARsal seems to have more real characters, and some of its actors who have personal problems react during the rehearsals. The main problem with the farce is that it needs to be trimmed from its present 2 hour and 25 minute to a shorter length. Some of the scenes go on much too long. However, many of the scenes are hilarious.
Eight actors fill their roles competently. David Sinaiko with an Albert Einstein hairdo is exceptional as the avant garde director who starts out slow but then becomes a fast talker who must be high on speed. He also becomes very randy as the play progresses. Bridgette Raynolds-Perry is wonderful as the actress who plays the Hungarian mother. She remarks to the director at the beginning, "I'm a 32 year old actress who has played three crones in succession. I deserve better." She is superb in the actual play of The Ear where she does not utter one word, only a succession of coughs, phlegm problems and the movements of an old Hungarian mother. Elijah Berlow plays the egotistical ham with Truman Capote mannerisms, but he tends to overplay the role.
Paul Silverman plays a mousy actor who lacks confidence and has a habit of running out of rehearsals to get "smoothies." He is very good in the role. Mary Unruh is sweet as the actress who has a boyfriend who is a noxious theater critic. Jason Frazier is very laid back as Danny who is making his first professional acting appearance in The Ear. He is a floor layer during the day and he wants to try to go on the acting track.
Rounding out the cast are David Austin-Groen as an actor with a day job of morgue assistant and who looks like he smokes pot a lot (probably has to if he is working in a morgue), and Lucy Owen as the wise cracking tall blonde stage manger. Both are first-rate in their roles.
The small set is very good with a witty painted curtain of a peasant tavern set in the second and third acts. There is also a very interesting giant pink ear where several fascinating things take place. The Hungarian costumes by Coley Lally are very comical. It all looks like something out of the old Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca television shows. Direction by Tom Clyde is very good, though there are several times he lets the actors go completely overboard.
The RehEARsal runs through March 23rd. It is playing at the Transparent Theatre, 1901 Ashby Ave, Berkeley. For tickets call 510-883-0305 or visit www.transparenttheater.org. There next production will be Virginia Woolf's Night and Day which is a world premiere stage adaptation by Tom Clyde. It opens on May 9 and runs thru June 8.