“Cyrano” at APT filled with the pathos and joy of the man from Bergerac

James Ridge and Laura Rook

 

Casey Hoekstra and James Ridge

The two parallels between a pair of men of nobility, passion and courage are too profound and clear to ignore.

Cyrano and Quixote.

Cyrano came from Bergerac,, a small French town and Don Quixote came from La Mancha, a town located on a plateau in central Spain.

The two men, of course, are the heroes in two plays. “The Man of La Mancha” a musical based on the famous novel by Miguel de Cervantes.

Cyrano is the hero of the play, “Cyrano de Bergerac,” first performed in 1897 and now splendidly onstage in a a new adaptation by James DeVita at American Players Theatre in Spring Green.

For Quixote it was an impossible dream and an impossible love that draped his shoulders and his lance. For Cyrano, it is an impossible love that fuels his foil and his heart.

Quixote was strained by the devils in his mind, the imagined warriors he confronted. Cyrano’s curse is his nose and he assuages his guilt over his deformity with the mentality and activity of a fierce warrior.

The biggest difference between these two battlers is that Quixote is a man of action while Cyrano is a man of words. It is the poetry of life that courses through Cyrano and Mr. DeVita, who directed this production, clearly understands the power of words and the precious nature of thought and emotion.

In one of the greatest performances of his distinguished career, James Ridge takes a tight grip on his Cyrano from the earliest moments and maintains it through all the trials and triumphs until his painful and sorrow-filled death at the end of the play.

Every school child who takes an English class is familiar with this tale of this unrequited love and the loneliness that goes with it.

Cyrano is cursed with his nose and with his powerful and abiding love for his cousin, Roxanne (Laura Rook). She, however, loves another, Christian (Danny Martinez) a soldier in the guard regiment led by Cyrano himself. That love is sparked by just a shared glance, but grows from the poetry floated to Roxanne in both speech and letter. The words capture her heart and little does she know that her Christian is a fraud, unable to summon even a spot of poetry and relying on the good grace of Cyrano to compose the words that he would say to Roxanne if he only had the chance to admit his love.

As Quixote had his Sancho Panza, so, too does Cyrano have his LeBret (Chiké Johnson) to whom Cyrano finally admits his quandary.

“Whom I love? Come, think a little ― then look at me.
The hope of being loved is ever bereft me
By this thing of mine, this length of nose
Which precedes me everywhere I go
By a quarter of an hour…
Yet I may love. And whom? Whom should I love?
Why, fate would have it be no other way ―
The loveliest of the lovely, of course,
The most delicate, most beautiful she that breathes;
He who has seen her smile has known perfection.”

Cyrano meets Roxanne may well be as romantic a  comedy as “When Harry Met Sally.”Hidden among the laughs are the souls, faiths and insecurities laid bare for all to see.

Mr. Ridge stretches to almost unbearable length to find the humor and pathos inside Cyrano. Whether he is in duel or foiling a fatuous actor (a riotous Brian Mani), Mr. Ridge drapes Cyrano in fun and frolic.

But when he pines for his Roxanne he is a tragic and miserable man, bound by his distorted self-image. My heart broke each time he let his mind wander to what could have been and what should have been.

There is nothing quite like APT on a warm summer night and there is nothing quite like “Cyrano de Bergerac,” a story about everything important in this world, heart and emotion, love and honor, reason and hopes and honesty and faith.

Production credits:  Director, James DeVita; Voice and Text Coach, Eva Brenneman; Scenic Design, MathewJ. LeFebvre; Costume Design, Nathan Stuber; Lighting Design; Michael A. Peterson; Sound Design & Original Music, Sarah Pickett; Movement Director, Jessica Lanius; Fight Director, Kevin Asselin; Assistant Fight Director , Andrew Rathegeber; Stage Manager, Evelyn Matten; Production Photographer, Michael Brosilow.

About davebegel@gmail.com

Theater Critic in Milwaukee.
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