Friday, September 8, 2017

“Cyrano de Bergerac” - American Players Theatre

Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand, adapted and directed by James DeVita.  A wildly romantic tragicomedy, Cyrano de Bergerac is a swashbuckling epic, brought to vivid life by American Players Theatre.

Here’s the problem.  I love Cyrano de Bergerac.  For mixing comedy, tragedy, romance and some more comedy, you can’t beat this script.  So I’m going to be pickier than I am normally.  When my wife and I saw Moon Over Buffalo on Broadway, there was a line about how brilliant a director the lead character is – “He staged Cyrano de Bergerac with five people.”  I was the only one in the house who laughed.  Really loud.  (And more on this type of staging when I review Pericles.)

Cyrano de Bergerac is the story of a gallant, eloquent but homely French soldier, deeply in love with his cousin Roxanne.  She, in turn, falls for a handsome but empty headed soldier and Cyrano is determined that she shall live happily ever after, no matter what the cost to himself.

James Ridge is a fabulous Cyrano.  Charming, verbose, gallant and lonely, Cyrano is an actor’s dream role and Ridge justifies the dream.

David Daniel, who was in all three shows we saw that weekend, was excellent as Cyrano’s Comedy Relief buddy, Ragueneau, seemingly an obtuse boob, whose obtuseness is actually conscious and kind.

As Christian (Roxanne’s heartthrob), Danny Martinez is terrific as a young man, not the brightest bulb in the marquee, who eventually tires of not being able to speak for himself.

Laura Rook is great as Roxanne, a beautiful girl who is also quick-witted and spunky.

John Taylor Phillips ruled as the treacherous, pompous DeGuiche -- who might 

A large cast, terrific set & costumes, a fast but reasonable pace from the director, all go to provide (typically for APT) an entrancing evening of theater.

Now… what didn’t I like?  Three things.

1. Cyrano de Bergerac is a swashbuckler with only one real swordfight; and it was adequate.  No great shakes.  But I get it.  With actors who are memorizing two or three incredibly verbose shows per year, there’s no time to go all The Princess Bride on its ass.  Still… eh. 

2. The Orange Girl scene.  Played rather more prosaically than usual.  Cyrano has given away all his money in a Grand Gesture, and an Orange Girl (think Popcorn Vendor at a movie theater) offers him some food.  He makes yet another Grand Gesture, and the girl goes away with stars in her eyes.  But not here.  Not much was made of the moment, and the lines were cut that indicated that Cyrano could indeed win any girl he chose, if he only believed in himself.  Again, I get why this happened.  The idea is to increase the odds against Cyrano’s chances of success by adopting his own viewpoint about those odds.  I just like it when the audience thinks better of Cyrano than he does of himself. 

3. This one I don’t get.  American Players Theatre, in a bowl at the top of a hill, has excellent acoustics.  The actors aren’t usually miked, and you can hear every word.  Usually.  For some reason, after being clear as a bell for most of the night, the actors in the final act became Very Quiet and I had to strain to hear them.  Especially the nuns who are there to bring us up to speed on what’s been happening since all hell broke loose 15 years earlier.  It’s important exposition and I heard very little of it.

BUT… Cyrano de Bergerac is a remarkable epic achievement.  Required viewing.  Go see it.

(I'm ending all three current reviews with this, as it is an important point.)
One thing that aids APT in presenting 2½-to-3 hour shows is the effort involved in getting there.  From DuPage County, Illinois, it’s a long drive, followed by a half mile uphill walk to get to the theatre.  (Shuttles are available.)  After all that work, you really don’t want to turn right around and go home after 1½ hours.  You go there expecting to be grandly entertained for an entire evening.  And your expectations are grandly fulfilled.

If you love classical theater, you need to go to American Players Theatre.
If you want to love full out classical theater, but have only seen abridgements or bad productions, you need to give APT a shot, because you will be converted.
If you hate classical theater… go away.


“Cyrano de Bergerac” by Edmond Rostand.  Adapated and directed by James DiVita.

When: Through October 6

Where: American Players Theatre, 5950 Golf Course Road, Spring Green, Wisconsin, 53588

Tickets & Information:

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