Rehearsals, by North Carolina playwright Bill Cissna, is a rollicking meta farce within a farce, masterfully delivered by the Saax Bradbury Teen Players at New Bern Civic Theatre in a superb production with a lot to teach many adult players and theatre companies. While the cast and production crew are all teenagers, their performances were adult quality.

Rehearsals is about a small-town amateur theatre company’s attempts to put on a challenging big-city play full of the most nuanced snark from the master of snark, Oscar Wilde. Everything that can go wrong predictably goes wrong, in the manner of overextended and under-resourced theatres everywhere. There is an even mixture of straight play and play-within-the-play tropes as the actors and crew of imaginary Wilmertown tackle An Ideal Husband.

The night’s audience was filled with enthusiastic parents and friends, which greatly contributed to the excited atmosphere of this opening night. Playwright Cissna and his wife were also present.

Movement and timing were excellent; there was always that important feeling that we were going somewhere, even in the play-within. Props were minimal, which brought the focus effectively onto the cast.

Sophie Oliver, the production’s director, clearly had a sure hand in leading this production. Everything about the production was careful and straightforward, nothing was overwrought.

Christopher Robinson played the roles of director Tim Brice and Lord Chiltern. He is a consummate actor, sadly overmiked. He perfectly portrayed (without actual homicide) the frustrations of a small-time theatre’s overworked director. His role as Lord Chiltern required something of a British accent, which came out just as one would expect from a Carolina high school student, perfect for this play. That our-town theatre should be asked to portray small-town theatre attempting Wilde with British accents is, in itself, a funny commentary on small-town theatre.

Corbin Estez in the role of Producer was excellent. They moved and spoke with assurance when alternately cheerleading in the face of disaster and celebrating success.

Ania Fields, Stage Manager and Lady Chiltern, was deft and precise. Theatregoers can look forward to much good work from her.

Instead of singling out, it is better to look at the incredible team act that the players and crew delivered. Everyone seemed to be working happily together to deliver Rehearsals. The evening flowed smoothly from opening to final curtain. The Teen Players program at New Bern Civic Theatre is one of the finest things to hit New Bern in a long time.

Following the brilliantly produced and acted teen performance, the evening’s energy took a serious downturn when the adults took over. Michael Tahaney, Executive Director of New Bern Civic Theatre, took the spotlight, mic in hand, along with playwright Bill Cissna, just when the teen players should have been celebrating their opening night success. The teens were directed to line up, sitting on the edge of the stage, kicking their heels, while Cissna said a few words about his creative process. Then Tahaney shoved his mic at each actor in turn, asking of each one word to describe their part in the play. The teens were polite and articulate. It is a credit to them that they did not mutiny in the face of this monstrous scene steal. Kudos again to the young people, with a suggestion that adults might learn from them.

Rehearsals continues through Sunday, July 23. For more details on this production, please view the sidebar.