The Rehearsal’s the Thing Wherein I’ll Catch the Conscience of the King

The play-within-a-play is a common theatrical device, maybe most memorable in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but just as evident in a show like Tina Fey’s 30 Rock.  Authors, screenwriters, and playwrights alike all seem to enjoy the interplay of an artificial reality within a larger artificial reality—and for good reasons too.  It allows the creator to explore the differences between the inner and outer selves, to illustrate the theatrics of everyday life, and of course, to comment on his/her own work (or creative masterpieces) as it plays out for the audience.

At a point during French playwright Jean Anouilh’s The Rehearsal—which runs until May 24 at A Noise Within in Glendale— we see this first hand as an actress…who plays an actress…who plays the Countess questions her husband, the Count (Robertson Dean), about whether or not his love interest in the play, Lucile, has become his love interest in real life. He responds with possibly the best line in the show: “Life is very nice, but it has no shape.  The object of art is actually to give it some and to do it by every artifice possible—truer than the truth.”  This one sentence summed up the entirety of the engaging two-and-a-half hour production; that oftentimes the ‘fake’ is more meaningful than the ‘real.’

The Rehearsal’s setting is a perfect example of this paradox; it takes place in 1950s France, but since the play-within-the-play is set closer to the 1750s, the characters seem much more themselves when disguised beneath the wigs and gowns of antiquated aristocracy.  In fact, the wigs only come off when we meet the impetus for the show’s conflict, Lucile, who never wears a wig herself.  She, unlike the rest of the Count’s hoity-toity social circle—his wife the stuffy Countess, the airhead Mistress, the Footman buffoon, or the drunken, manipulative Hero —is soft, naïve, and caring.  And it is due to these exact qualities that the Count falls deeply and openly in love with Lucile—much to the chagrin of the others.  The remaining scenes of The Rehearsal are not so much concerned with rehearsing as they are about winning over the romantic sentiments of the newly transformed Count—and by any means possible.

For the most part, A Noise Within’s recent rendition of this tragic farce, smoothly directed by Julia Rodriguez-Elliott, is right on the mark of what one wishes to see out of good, classical theatre—tight and assured performances, witty dialogue, transformative costumes and set-dressing, and maybe the most heart-warming in these times: a packed house on the second weekend.  If artifice does indeed give way to truth, then Rodriguez-Elliott succeeded in bringing true theatre to Los Angeles–even if it was just a rehearsal.


- By Josh Morrison


Jean Anouilh’s The Rehearsal runs until May 24 at A Noise Within, located at South Brand Boulevard in Glendale.  For more information, please visit, or call (818) 240-0910.

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