Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Cyrano de Bergerac"

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note: entire contents copyright 1998 by Larry Stark

"Cyrano de Bergerac"

by Edmond Rostand
in translation by Anthony Burgess & Brian Hooker
Directed & Designed by James P. Byrne

Costume Design by Robin McLaughlin
Lighting Design by Tim Healy
Fight Choreography by Rich McKey
Stage Manager Anne Vohs

Cyrano.................James P. Byrne
Roxanne...........Tammy Harper-Cloney
Christian................Scott Raigel
De Guiche...................Ed Etsten
Le Bret....................Rich McLey
Duenna...............Dianne Wadsworth
Ragueneau.................Dafydd Rees
Duchesses, Marquises, Soldiers, Nuns:
Ethan Paulini, Nick Lohr, Russ Herrington, Bruce Bobel, Michael Buckley, Sarah Watmough, Julia Terrio, Emily Murray, Amanda Moreschi, Rory Tagliaferri

You won't be able to see James P. Byrne's production of "Cyrano de Bergerac" done by the Harwich Junior Theatre, but it deserves a full review nonetheless. The Director-Designer-Star kept the best of three translations, then cut judiciously to fit the limited budget and small but generous stage in such a way that this romantic old warhorse emerged fresh and delightful. As Cyrano he had an excellent Roxanne to play against in Tammy Harper-Cloney, whose simple, innocent, ever deepening love was the major theme of the play. Add Scott Raigel's honest, forceful Christian, and unctuously scheming Ed Etsten as the opportunistic De Guiche, and you had a carefully balanced quartet of lovers destined to do all the wrong things for all the right reasons --- and all excellently played.

Roxanne falls for the form and features of Christian, expecting --- and getting --- all the literary eloquence of her childhood friend the ugly Cyrano. But by giving her more lines, Byrne allowed what usually comes off as a selfish featherhead to explain her growing maturity. Kept from knowing which lover writes her moving letters, she responded sensuously, adoringly to the wrong one --- but the sincerity of everyone's reactions made this an unexpected delight.

Byrne used the square thrust-stage, and even the space surrounding it, to bring a baker's dozen performers into the scene in all sorts of roles, doubling actors to add to the spectacle, giving each a moment all their own. And from the early duel to the final death of the hero, he managed to balance comic turns, quick physical action, and direct honest emotion where it counted most --- a flower-girl's glow when Cyrano kisses her hand; de Guiche grudgingly admitting admiration for his old foe; Christian's consternation hearing "his soul", reflected in letters he never wrote, commands Roxanne's love; Le Bret's concern over his friend's stubborn independence.

With a cast that was not so wildly disparate in ages, this show might have skewed more in terms of complexity than comic interlude, but all aspects of the show were well served and commanded a rapt, respectful attention from an audience as widely spread in ages as the cast. For a small company dedicated to training young actors to choose this play was unusal enough, but to have done it with such success is unusual indeed. And, as a cherry atop my Sunday, I was introduced to a Cape resident who habitually bops in to see the Harwich Junior Theatre productions --- a lady named Julie Harris, who seemed to like the show just as much as I did. I'm sorry you all missed it; but I'm equally glad that I didn't.


"Cyrano de Bergerac" (till 22 March)
Division Street, Route 28, WEST HARWICH

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide