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Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

The RehearsalAsolo Conservatory
William S. Oser | Season Schedule

Also see Bill's reviews of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Glass Menagerie and Manon Lescaut

Olivia Osol and Andrew Hardaway
Photo by Frank Atura
Jean Anouilh's The Rehearsal takes place at the summer home of the Count and Countess. No last names are supplied, which keeps the characters at a slight emotional distance from the audience. They are preparing a lavish ball, and a highlight of this party will be a performance of a play called The Double Inconsistency. This sets up multiple layers of reality, the characters relating to each other as themselves, relating to each other as the characters they are playing within the play, and also, because the Count and Countess are having affairs d'amour, relating to each other as they want to present themselves to others. The Count and a longtime friend also have emotional history that throws their reactions to each other into rocky terrain, yet another layer of perceived reality. All this calls to mind Jean Genet's The Balcony, but in that play, shifting reality is the central theme. I quickly fell into the world of this play and thoroughly enjoyed the ride Anouilh took me on.

The play's style, dense wordy dialogue and heavy plotting, is very much a relic of another age, yet our young cast does a superb job with it. Andrew Hardaway is charismatic as the Count, much as he was as Oedipus earlier this season. His Count is confident of his social position, bolstered by his wife's fortunes, which allows him free rein among the women of the household. Olivia Osol as his Countess is magnificent, always carrying herself with poise yet emotionally vulnerable because of her deep love for the Count, forgiving his philandering ways. That she also maintains a lover seems not to matter in her world view, a mere plaything which she is prepared to give up.

Katie Sah is Hortensia, the Count's current mistress but vulnerable to being replaced. She handles the household intrigue with grace, whispering in the ear of whoever might help her position. Jenny Vallancourt is Lucile, Governess to 12 orphans living at the Count and Countess' home and latest object of the Count's wandering eye. She portrays this character well, clearly not from the same social class as the others. Dylan Crow is Hero, The Count's longtime best friend. In a disturbing seduction scene in act two where the artifice so carefully maintained previously is stripped away piece by piece, he is nothing short of brilliant. Erik Meixelsperger is Damiens, Lucile's former guardian, and Scott Shomaker is Villebosse, playing Harlequin, the Countess' plaything. Both of these roles are underwritten, so it is hard to judge performances when the author doesn't offer much in the way of opportunities.

Director Ashley Teague is an inspired choice for this piece. The cast all seem to grasp the many layers of Anouilh's intrigue and convey it clearly, no mean feat. Scenic design by Jeffrey Weber minimally conveys an ornate country chateau. Sumptuous costumes by Sofia Gonzalez mostly outfit the actors for the play within the play, ornate and of the period for Marivaux's restoration comedy. Lighting design by Chris McVicker is excellent all the way through, but reaches its zenith in the seduction scene, helping to make it harrowing. I was able to understand almost every word, no easy task for this hearing impaired sixty something, thanks to Patricia Delorey's voice and dialect coaching.

One thing I will take away from this production of The Rehearsal is that I love Theater of the Absurd, and luckily I did not have to travel far to see this marvelous version at Asolo Conservatory.

Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training's The Rehearsal, through March 11, 2018, at the Cook Theater in the FSU Center, 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota FL. For more information visit or call the box office at 941-351-8000

Cast: The Countess: Olivia Osol*
Damiens: Erik Meixelsperger
The Count: Andrew Hardaway
Hortensia: Katie Sah
Hero: Dylan Crow
Villebosse: Scott Shomaker
Lucile: Jenny Vailancourt*
*=Appears courtesy of Actors' Equity Association

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