Cyrano

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By Philip Pearce

IT’S INTERESTING the way that PacRep’s current season takes two central heroes of early 20th century European drama, Peter Pan and Cyrano de Bergerac, and gives them each a new look. Plus the frank theatricality of a handful of actors playing a whole lot of the characters involved in the stories of their lives.

In the June/July production of Peter and the Starcatcher twelve actors played more than 30 roles in a swashbuckling prequel to the August/July musical version of Peter Pan.

Now there’s an exciting new version of Cyrano, which tells the well-loved tale but pares nearly 50 speaking roles down to 27 to be played by a cast of nine.

When you think about it, Peter and Cyrano are cut from the same mold. Both are chock full of swaggering self-confidence, both are supernaturally brilliant swordsmen, both are sworn enemies of the social status quo. “I want,” Cyrano explains at one point, “to reduce the number of bows I have to make in a day.” Peter doesn’t want to grow up and have to make that kind of decision in the first place.

Like many another theater addict of my generation, I’ve always loved Rostand’s three hour, five-act marathon of moonlit romance, spontaneous poetry and dashing swordplay. But Michael Hollinger’s slick new translation and the fresh two-act adaptation of the text he shares with Aaron Posner make for a fast-paced and thoroughly satisfying evening in the Outdoor Forest Theater.

In a recent interview, Hollinger notes that the original script’s world of 17th century Paris isn’t exactly familiar territory to 21st century audiences. “It was important to me that the play speak to us, here and now, and therefore I made myself the litmus test of what would be accessible, immediate, funny, poignant, and so on.”

So there’s little left of Rostand’s blank verse or the sections of social comment on French society of the 1600’s. What comes across vividly is the central ironic dilemma of a man with a face so unsightly he can only use his supreme genius for poetic love talk to push his lady love into the arms of a handsome but tongue-tied rival.

Pacific Rep executive director Stephen Moorer is an active, touching and consistently funny Cyrano. He mines every vein of wit in the new script and catches most of the underlying pathos without ever slipping into the lilting Gielgud/Burton attitude and voice adopted by some Cyranos I’ve seen. His dying attack against social convention and phony officialdom is no reflective elegy, it’s a ruthless sword fight to the death.

This new version makes it easier to explore character motivations and navigate some of the finer points of 17th century French civic and military life by expanding the role of Le Bret. He’s no longer just Cyrano’s trusty military buddy; he’s a wise narrator who steps out of the action and into a spotlight to explain things directly to us ticket holders. It works admirably. Unlike Rostand’s audience but just like Shakespeare’s, we’ve reached a point where we like it when somebody pauses the story and comments on what’s going on. As always, Jeffrey T Heyer is clear and believable in the role.

The remainder of the players are busy and excellent, moving nimbly through two or three roles apiece. Jennifer Le Blanc is a beautiful, passionate Roxane, so swept up in a duet of Cyrano’s poetry and Gascon-cadet Christian de Neuvillette’s good looks that it takes her fourteen years to discover she’s been in love with the soul of one and only the body of the other.

Justin Gordon is an appealing Christian, a fresh military recruit who’s closely in touch with his feelings but clueless in expressing them. I liked his last-minute wide-eyed explosion of terror at having to woo the lovely Roxane, even coached by the eloquent Cyrano.

D Scott McQuiston is a bubbly and comically endearing Ragueneau, a pastry chef and would-be poet, who manages (in the interest of trimming down cast size) to shout protests at his wife for wrapping her pastries in the texts of his verses without her ever actually appearing on stage.

A small and energetic Andrew Mazer is convincingly tipsy as a bibulous cadet named Ligniere.  Lewis Rhames is willowy and comically inept as a plumed Parisian popinjay named De Valvert, one of a string of candidates for the hand of the fair Roxane. More purposeful and pompous is Michael Storm as another suitor, De Guiche, commander of Cyrano and Christian’s Gascon battalion. The versatile and surprising Garland Thompson moves effortlessly through five different roles, most notably in drag as Roxane’s busybody and sweet-toothed duenna and then in Rosary and wimple as the chatty, broom-wielding Sister Marthe.

Kenneth Kelleher’s direction manages, again and again, to make the nine-member cast look and act like a big crowd. My favorite segment of Act 1 is a sequence that doesn’t even happen in the old Rostand version. Cyrano, high and happy at some fond attention from his beloved Roxane, learns that a hundred sword-wielding thugs are planning a midnight ambush at the Porte de Nesle. He vows to bare his sword and carve them up, single handedly, one by one. Rostand’s script simply reports his success after the fact. Kelleher, Moorer and fight director Justin Gordon show it happening in a shadowy ballet of flashing swordplay which proves that perfectly timed farce can be both hilarious and beautiful.

I loved the show, but I had minor problems with the set design. The big outdoor theater stage allows for a lot of depth and width. But is the backstage area so limited that ingredients of Patrick McEvoy’s settings need to be stored in plain view instead of waiting in the wings to be wheeled on when required? The big quarter moon awaited its appearance in the balcony/garden scene from a position way upstage. And an unchanging background of blue-green wooden fretwork units gave a sense of clutter.

That said, it’s a must see, but take plenty of coats and blankets. It continues through October 15th.

 

 

Weekly Magazine

UC Indian

THIS WEEK

THE MONTEREY SYMPHONY performs Brahms’ grand Second Piano Concerto with soloist Juan Pérez Floristán. SANTA CATALINA SCHOOL students in Monterey stage another award-winning musical comedy so far ignored by area ‘professional’ theater companies; in 2016 it was Drood; now it’s the Tony-winning The Drowsy Chaperone. MONTEREY COUNTY COMPOSERS David Canright, Steve Ettinger, Paula Kaiser, Carleton Macy, Ed Moncrief, George Petersen, David Price, Julie Roseman, Dale Victorine, and Rick Yramategui serve up new music at Hidden Valley. SANTA CRUZ CHAMBER PLAYERS conclude their current season in Aptos. OUR TOWN continues at Center Stage in Santa Cruz. DANCE: NOCHE BOHEMIA in Salinas & “JOURNEY THROUGH INDIA” (above) at UCSC. For links to these and other live events, click our CALENDAR and on the ads, left.

VIENNA’S VEGGIE ORCHESTRA

PLAYING WITH FOOD has been going on there for 18 years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

MUSICAL PREFERENCE REFLECTS YOUR PERSONALITY

A NEW STUDY tells you who you are. Click HERE

COMPOSER MURDERED BY NAZIS RESTORED TO LIFE

CONDUCTOR JOANN FALLETTA and the Buffalo Philharmonic resurrect Marcel Tyberg, a Croatian Catholic, more than a half century after his death at Auschwitz. Including their recording of his Third Symphony, click HERE

LAMENTATE

71VVI-nrGZL._SL1011_A SENSATIONAL NEW RECORDING of Arvo Pärt’s ambitious 2002 ten-movement homage to Anish Kapoor’s stupendous ‘sculpture’ Marsyas. Just released on the Orange Mountain label, the 40-minute work for piano and orchestra gets a high-definition performance by soloist Maki Namekawa and her conductor husband Dennis Russell Davies (pictured below) with the Bruckner Orchester Linz. The work is a dramatic enlargement on the 82-year-old composer’s earlier and more intimate “tintinnabulation” style, replete with grand fanfares on brass and lushly Daviessweeping strings. The only connection to Kapoor’s Marsyas is hinted at by the titles of the ten movements, suggesting the satyr’s flaying by Apollo after losing a music contest with the god. Completing the disc is Pärt’s These Words… of 2008 for string orchestra and percussion, the latter mostly is delicate shades. Curiously, the CD, which was recorded in December, 2016, comes with no program notes.

NEW HAVEN SYMPHONY CONDUCTOR SEARCH

SANTA CRUZ NATIVE REBECCA MILLER is a finalist to take over the 125-year-old orchestra. William Boughton is stepping down after 11 years as music director of the NHS. Three candidates lined up to succeed him are: Delaware Symphony’s MD David Amado; Marin Symphony and Sun Valley Symphony’s MD Alasdair Neale; and London-based Miller. The orchestra was co-founded by Horatio Parker, then head of music at Yale University. Click HERE

PERFORMING ARTS PEOPLE

Darian and Lukas

MICHAEL SCHRAUD, maker of West African musical instruments, gets help from his two sons, Darian and Lukas, students at Carmel High School. To read Malia Durbano’s excellent story about them, click HERE

GODFATHER OF SOUL

URAL THOMAS, R&B alive and well in Portland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

FRESH REVIEWS

THORNTON WILDER’S The Skin of Our Teeth. Click HERE

ESPRESSIVO chamber orchestra in Santa Cruz. MPC STRINGS at Carmel Mission. Click HERE

NEXT WEEK

ENSEMBLE MONTEREY and Cabrillo Cantiamo! team up for Song of Praise, featuring Rihards Dubra’s Te Deum. PIANIST JEREMY DENK welcomed by Carmel Music Society. MPC THEATRE opens The Adventures of Robin Hood. THE WESTERN STAGE opens Emma!

FOLLOW US ON TWITTER: @PerfArtsMtyBay

Scott MacClelland, editor; Rebecca CR Brooks, associate editor

 

MPC String Ensemble

By Monica Mendoza

WHEN YOU ENTER A CHURCH that houses an organ you are quite literally walking into a musical instrument. The interior of the church is like the inside of a violin or a cello, a space for the sound to resonate. The organ is an instrument that makes you feel small, which makes it a fitting instrument for ecclesiastical usage, to turn one’s mind to higher things.

TiffanyTiffany Bedner, the featured organist of the evening at Carmel Mission Basilica last Friday, opened the concert with JS Bach’s famous Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. Fugue comes from the Latin “to fly away” and Bach’s most famous organ work does just that. There are so many voices and ideas going on at once, flying in and out of the texture in a mad rush, yet the beauty of the baroque fugue is that no matter how different from each other the parts get they always weave together in a harmonious way. Bedner’s playing was precise, with just the right amount of weight given to each voice in the fugue. While only the start of the concert, it was already a stirring evening.

After Bedner’s fugue, in which the Monterey Peninsula College String Ensemble performed only in the background, the next piece was just for the strings. Arranged by Matthew Naughtin, the Simple Gifts Fugue was a short, but ambitious work; a re-imagining of the famous tune in the style of a baroque fugue. The rustic melody became very solemn, with interesting transitions into minor keys, and a powerful basso continuo line. I found myself frequently paying attention to the bass line, as this piece was dedicated to the late double bassist Don Roseff. An active musician in the Monterey Peninsula area, Roseff passed away unexpectedly on February 10th of this year.

After the pair of fugues, the string ensemble was joined by the Carmel Mission Choir who performed several considerably lighter pieces. The first was Offertory by John Ness Beck, followed by three pieces by Dan Forrest, all settings of somewhat religious texts. These pieces have lovely string parts that compliment the voices as well as the text. In the majestic Benedictus, the snare drum adds just the right touch, a sense of regality fitting for the text. There was also excellent balance between the individual sections of the choir, despite the imbalance between the number of people in each section. The female sections were fuller than the men’s but all parts could be heard equally well.

Tiffany Bedner returned to the organ for Poulenc’s Organ Concerto. A witty French composer, Poulenc has a distinctively mischievous way with notes. In this concerto he uses a lot of tension and release in the form of interplay between major and minor. Especially towards the end this interplay became quite frantic, and the drama high. Quite different from his other works, the Organ Concerto was written at a time of crossroads in his life while he was mourning a deceased friend and at the same time rediscovering his Roman Catholic faith. The stress in his personal life certainly left an impression on his writing, which is some of his most solemn. In this case, the writing is demanding, not just for the organ, but also for the strings. Bedner put a lot of character into her playing, and presented a concerto that sets the organ free from the stereotypes it is often boxed into. Instead of being the “Halloween instrument”or the “church instrument,” it was simply the organ; an instrument with much versatility.

At the end of the evening, the conductor of the Carmel Mission singers, soprano Laura Anderson, sang five operatic arias. Four of them were by Puccini, the odd one out was Desdemona’s famous Ave Maria from Otello by Verdi. Anderson had a wide range of characters to bring to life convincingly. In “Vissi d’arte,” “O mio babbino caro” and “Un bel di” (from Tosca, Gianni Schicchi and Madama Butterfly respectively), and despite the very different women portrayed, Anderson made the switch effortlessly. The other Puccini aria further showcased Anderson’s refined soprano, which filled the Basilica’s resonant space, yet included one striking imbalance: at the end of Liu’s aria from Turandot, “Tu che di gel sei cinta” (“You who are enclosed by ice”), the massive timpani crashes overpowered the voice. This is a dramatic moment, at which the character singing the aria to her cruel mistress commits suicide rather than betray the man she loves. Despite being interrupted like that, Anderson gave a compelling performance, in terms of both acting and singing.

Though it was quite an ambitious program, the MPC String Ensemble made performing such repertoire look easy, and there were only a few very small audible missteps in the two hour program. Quite an accomplishment, it will be exciting to see what the group does in the coming school year.