FRIDAY NIGHT and THE REHEARSAL, at Voltaire. Joyce Carol Oates again proves herself to be one of our most articulate authors with The Rehearsal, in which an actor and actress stubbornly resist the hackneyed scene they're preparing until revelation of their personal experiences gradually lends depth to its artifice. And in Friday Night, a group of rural-Michigan youths engage in the sort of drunken revelry that's inadvisable in a region where hunting knives and Winchester rifles are carried as a matter of course.
Linda LeVeque directs Kate Harris and David Tatosian, the mature and seasoned actors who play the thespians in The Rehearsal; their subtlety and restraint reveal the sensitive subtext beneath dialogue that could easily become soapy. Unfortunately the same can't be said for the cast of mostly young players in Friday Night; under Frank Farrell's always deft direction they achieve some nice ensemble interaction, but individually they convey only the most superficial interpretations of Oates's incisive language. (In the opening scene, for example, the narrator fields annoying offstage questions from her mother, but Belinda Berdes never shows any discernible reaction to what she's hearing; she simply charges ahead with her next speech.)
We have to sit through Friday Night in order to get to The Rehearsal, but the latter is well worth the wait.
--Mary Shen Barnidge