By Bill Wheeler (Read the original.)
The Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company (BETC) is nothing if not creative; they have turned the major renovations at their home base (The Dairy Arts Center) into a bold opportunity. They have moved out of their comfort zone and spread their talents all over the front range. They produced Vera Rubin: Bringing the Dark to Light at the Fiske Planetarium, and Ideation at two “outside the box” Boulder locations. Their latest traveling production Cyrano takes BETC 45 miles southeast to the Lone Tree Arts Center.
At each of their temporary venues, BETC has maintained the high quality of its productions. I have seen all three of their road shows, and there is no sign of any drop off whatsoever despite the logistics of the disparate venues. BETC had no choice about using alternative venues, but they have done it so well that perhaps the company should consider doing at least one show each season at a new venue. In addition to challenging the company, these traveling shows expose BETC to a new audience at every venue.
Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano has stood the test of time. Written in 1897, the script is a Beauty and the Beast variation that has been adapted for opera, radio, and various film versions, including the 1987 Roxanne with Steve Martin and Daryl Hannah. The BETC production is based on a new adaptation by Michael Hollinger and Aaron Posner. BETC is very familiar with both Posner and Hollinger; they produced Posner’s Stupid F##king Bird script last year, as well as Hollinger’s Ghost-Writer in 2013, one of my all time favorite BETC productions.
The Hollinger/Posner Cyrano adaptation takes some liberties with Rostand’s script, updating the language and turning Rostand’s verse into prose. Both of those changes are for the better. To their credit, Hollinger and Posner have preserved Rostand’s story and structure.
Director Rebecca Remaly uses this adapted version to emphasize the human as well as the comic qualities of the characters. Her Cyrano (Stephen Weitz) is a humble but wittty romantic who overcompensates for his legendary nose with exaggerated panache. Christian (John DiAntonio) is both brave and insecure, and no match for the smarter Cyrano. Roxane (Adrian Egolf) is beautiful, confident, and smart enough to know her own heart. Instead of Rostand’s caricatures, Remaly’s characters are decent people who know both their limitations and their dreams. Remaly understands that although the comedy in Cyrano is central, it is the emotions that are universal.
Stephen Weitz is, literally, a three dimensional Cyrano. He’s a swashbuckling braggart, a gifted poet, and a devoted if secret lover. Weitz zips seamlessly from one dimension to the next, as if it’s natural to slay 100 enemies and then write a sonnet. His wit and bravado aside, though, it is Weitz’ devotion to Roxane that endears him to us. He’s a romantic, and a very effective one.
Adrian Egolf blindly but fully embraces the heart of the man she loves. Egolf is radiant. More importantly, though, she is convincingly disinterested in her lover’s appearance but hopelessly captivated by his nature.
John DiAntonio is an intriguing Christian. Like any man his age, his attraction to Roxane is strong but shallow. DiAntonio makes the delicate shift from lecher to leader in battle by recognizing that he lacks some of Cyrano’s best qualities.
Well known for his ability to steal a scene in the wink of an eye, Sammie Joe Kinnett is in rare form for Cyrano. He plays multiple roles, most of them women. Sammie Joe in drag is, well, a rare opportunity to see an accomplished actor strut his funniest stuff. If you haven’t seen him before, see him in Cyrano. Once you’ve seen him perform, you’ll know why his fans can’t get enough of his shows.
Although Cyrano is not a musical, there are musical moments, and the best one is the “Gascony Guard” song. The males in the cast gather for a testosterone fueled a capella statement intended to strike fear in their enemy’s hearts. It’s a great moment, and the harmonies are surprisingly good.
The technical aspects of Cyrano are exemplary. From the stunning set design by Tina Anderson and Ron Mueller, to the eye popping costumes (Brenda King) and realistic wigs (Diana Ben-Kiki), Cyrano has an authentic look and feel. Fight Director Geoffrey Kent puts on a swashbuckling swordplay extravaganza as Cyrano mows down any and all comers in extended battles.
If there is any fault with Rostand and this adaptation, it’s that there is a huge gap between the chivalry of the 17th to 19th centuries and the “selfie” generation today. Cyrano had limited his dating prospects in the 19th century, presumably because his nose was also his first impression. People meet with a digital photo now, and the indignity of that first impression has been reduced to a swipe. Dating has never been easy, but a prominent nose is not the obstacle it was in 1897.
There’s a lot to like in this BETC production. It’s a singular revival of Rostand’s story, revved up for contemporary audiences. BETC and Stephen Weitz have abundant “panache.” That’s the word Cyrano used to describe his approach to life. That panache makes for a very entertaining experience for this BETC road show in Lone Tree. It’s well worth the trip…for both BETC and for fans of theater classics.