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A CurtainUp Review
The Language of Love: Cyrano De Bergerac and Burning
Gabriel Barre steps into the plumed title role with more humility than any other Cyrano that I've seen to date. He doesn't chew the scenery, hog the stage, or commit any of the other sins that Cyranos are prone to indulge in. Instead, Barre, who also directs the production, seems intent on exploring the vulnerable aspects of his swashbuckling character. Yes, you will see Cyrano's signature panache when Barre pulls out a rapier in a twinkling, leaps into a duel and creates an envoy during the sword-clashing. After the steel blades have cooled, and the poetry put aside, Barre does a sharp volte face as he reveals the more tender-hearted side of the man who loves his cousin Roxanne. And you know how it plays out. Cyrano, with his over-size nose and self-doubt, lets the handsome but obtuse Christian win his cousin's hand, secretly penning love poetry for him that Roxanne swoons over at first hearing
The rest of the cast aren't only in his shadow. The ravishing-looking Bridget Saracino, is a fine Roxanne. Luke Darnell, as Christian, has the necessary good looks and ably projects his character's provincialism. Rin Allen aquits himself well in six roles— Valvert, Duenna, Actor, Lise, Cadet, Sister Marthe. Mark Peter is another resourceful multiple part player, especially as the arrogant cynic De Guiche. Many performers also do double-duty as musicians, playing guitars and traditional instruments which adds a soulful quality.
The production isn't flawless. Seating some of the audience on stage to facilitate audience interaction does give the huge performing space at St. Clement's a more intimate feel. But when two audience members are pulled into the action and asked to do a cold reading it would have helped to have microphones at the ready since they were hardly audible. It also slowed down the momentum of this otherwise brisk-paced production.
My quibbling aside, Barre and company don't lose the spirit of Rostand's original poetry and adds its own panache.
Cyrano's Partner Play: BurningBurning gives Cyrano a gender-bending, American twist. Written by Ginger Lazurus, and directed by Eric Parness, it buttonholes contemporary issues of gender equality and a person's sexual orientation.
The plot has clear echoes of Rostand's play. The central character Cy is a latter-day Cyrano. Discharged from the military for being a lesbian, she now runs a country store in a remote Western town near a military base, and writes a blog that has become her platform for social change. She is in love with Rose, who loves a good-looking—but inarticulate corporal named Cole from a nearby army base. After and persuades him to date Rose. When Cole reveals that he has difficulty expressing his feelings to Rose, Cy plasy a modern-day Cupid for him and composes romantic emails for Cole to cut and paste and send off to Rose as his own love letters. Yes, it gets more complicated and intense but to say more would make me a spoiler.
There's no question that Catherine Curtin as Cy is the real stand-out in this peculer menage a trois. She melts into her character and is utterly convincing as the army sergeant whose promising career was cut short by being too outspoken about her own sexual orientation. Shaun Bennet Fauntleroy and Sean Phillip are also excellent.
It's the overall excellence of the acting that really makes this double bill of something old plus something new catch fire