Sunday, April 19, 2015

Cyrano—Portland Center Stage—NW Portland, Pearl District

The Measure of a Man




This classical, tragic love story is by Edmond Rostand (translated by Michael Hollinger) and adapted for the stage by Hollinger and Aaron Posner.  It is directed by Jane Jones and is performing at PCS’s space, 128 NW 11th Ave., through May 3rd.  For more information, go to their site at www.pcs.org or call 503-445-3700.

Heroic and Love are two words that are bantered about so often that they have lost much of their punch.  But Cyrano is a man who knows the deepest meanings of these words and shows us by his actions.  The sub-sets for those words might be courageous…sacrifice…unconditional…honor, and Cyrano is the embodiment of those meanings.  A man cursed to be anything but himself.

The play was written in the late 1800’s and has been performed many times.  Jose Ferrer gave an Academy-award winning performance on film in the 50’s (as well as being involved with a musical version some years later); Depardieu brought us a rich, French version; Christopher Plummer did if for television on Hallmark Hall of Fame; Steve Martin performed a rather good, modern update called Roxanne; and Kevin Kline was on a PBS showing in the 2000’s.  All good pedigrees for this story.

Once upon a time, there was a man, Cyrano (Andrew McGinn), who loved a woman, Roxanne (Jen Taylor), but from afar.  For you see, although this man was a brilliant soldier and swordsman, a witty and erudite fellow, a poet, an honorable man, he was also cursed with what he thought to be a rather large imperfection, a big nose, and so he considered himself ugly.  It came to pass that a rather handsome, young man, Christian (Colin Byrne) caught the eye of his beloved.

But it seems that this pretty, young fellow also had an imperfection, too, he was a mess when it came to expressing himself, he had no way with words.  Besides, a rather powerful Lord, De Guiche (Leif Norby), was also jockeying for the attentions of Roxanne.  And Cyrano, being an honorable man, wanted his love, albeit unrequited, to have her heart’s desire.  So he agreed to act as the voice for Christian.

It was all going well, Cyrano as Love’s voice and Roxanne’s nurse, Desiree (Damon Kupper), protecting her maidenhood. Then, a war intervened and he and his troop (Darius Pierce, Chris Harder, Gavin Hoffman) and his Captain, Le Bret (Brian Gunter) were called to the Front.  More I cannot tell you for spoiling future discoveries.

And, although this tale may not end with a “…happily ever after,” like all good fairy tales, it concludes more like an Aesop fable, with a moral or lesson.  That being, perhaps, be happy with who you are and the world will respond in kind, or so one hopes.  If not, shame on the world, not the person.

Jones has done a wonderful job of presenting a complicated story on an essentially bare stage with few props.  She moves us along quickly but taking time out for the more poetic moments as well as allowing some comedy to come through.  And she has a very talented cast, some playing two or three roles.  Some I have reviewed before, like Pierce as a very funny dept. store elf in his one man show at PCS; Hoffman as a terrific Iago in their Othello; and Norby, wonderful as the Beast in Beauty and the Beast with Pixie Dust Productions.  McGinn is a super Cyrano, showing his prowess as well as his vulnerability.

And why should one see this story.  Claudie Jean Fisher, PR Manger for PCS, put it best:  “To cheer for Cyrano is to cheer for the triumph of intellect over appearance; kindheartedness over bullying; and panache over self-doubt…the hero for those who want to be accepted for who they are and are loved despite their imperfections….” Amen.  I couldn’t have said it better myself.  And for all those teens who are going through the angst of school and growing up, pay attention.  This one’s for you.

I recommend this show, but know that parking in the Pearl District can be a bear, so plan your time accordingly.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.