Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Cyrano de Bergerac

At the risk of pandering to an obvious pun, Sacramento Theatre Company's current production of Edmund Rostand's “Cyrano de Bergerac” hits it right on the nose.

Sandford Robbins, the founder and director of the Professional Training Program (PTTP), one of the top ten dramatic education programs in the country, and "Cyrano" director Peggy Shannon adapted Rostand's classic especially for Sacramento Theatre Company. The result is a romantic tale of a 17th Century French cavalier poet, a master swordsman as skillful with the pen as with the sword, in love with a beautiful lady, but afraid that his protuberant proboscis will get in the way of his search for true love.

John Pribyl brings dignity, humor, and panache to the role of Cyrano, a man who covers up a lot of his insecurities by laughing at his own physical oddity, while inside pining away for the love of the beautiful Roxanne (Jackie Vanderbeck). Pribyl's diction is impeccable, as he delivers long discourses, equally eloquent on subject of love, or on put-downs of his own prosthetically enhanced nose.

Instead of embarrassing himself by declaring his love for Roxanne, Cyrano becomes the mouthpiece for the handsome, dashing, but somewhat inarticulate cavalier Christian (Brett Williams), helping him woo and win the hand of Roxanne by putting words in his mouth and in his pen, the words that Roxanne longs for and that ultimately help her fall in love.

Williams does a fine job as Christian. Most roles in this play are subordinate to Cyrano and Williams does not stand out.

Vanderbeck is a lovely Roxanne, swept away by the eloquence of Cyrano's words, which she feels are coming from Christian, only to realize, much too late, that the man with whom she has been in love for so many years is really Cyrano.

Matt K. Miller, who has become a master at playing the snide villain undergoing some sort of ultimate noble transformation does not disappoint as the Comte DeGuiche, with his own designs on Roxanne, outwitted at the last moment by Cyrano, who arranges a hasty marriage before Christian is sent off to war.

(Times were apparently different in the 1600s and it appears that even cads respected the bond of marriage.)

Others in lesser roles all performed well. Adrian Roberts is a commanding presence on the stage as Cyrano's lifelong friend LeBret.

Lynn Baker is Roxanne's Duena, and later in the play dons the habit for a role as a nun in the abby where Roxanne retires following Christian's death.

Michael RJ Campbell is resplendent in pink as Cyrano's enemy, the actor Monfleury.

Doug Kester is Ragueneau, a pastry chef with a particular love of poetry.

John Dalmon is the poet Ligniere, whose life Cyrano saves by single-handedly battling 100 men.

Incidental music is provided by Moises Rodriguez, softly playing the guitar at one side of the stage, occasionally as accompaniment for on-stage choral singing, or solos by Erik Smith, who has a pleasant, if not memorable voice.

Chris Uchman-Douglas, playing the role of the Vicomte Valvert is also credited with fight choreography and has done a masterful job of creating the feel of a band of cavaliers for whom swordplay comes as second nature.

Kudos to Todd Roehermann for his magnificent costume design. The costumes, particularly of the cavaliers gave a wonderful richness to the look of the show.

Arthur Roch's scenic design was utilitarian, though nothing spectacular, primarily dictated by the number of people needed to be on stage in several scenes. The abby scene, however, was especitally lovely. I took particular offense, however, to his "man in the moon" rising across the nighttime sky. As this production seems to have been designed more for realism than for fantasy, a big yellow moon with the face of a man on it seemed jarringly out of place.

"Cyrano de Bergerac" is a classic with a contemporary feel. Director Peggy Shannon's production is wonderfully accessible and with a tragic triangular love story and all the swash-buckling battles that take place on the stage, it should have broad appeal across the spectrum of audience members.

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