Review: Cyrano is season winner at APT
SPRING GREEN, Wis. — Every few seasons at American Players Theatre one encounters a performance so staggeringly powerful that it defines in a permanent way just who a character is supposed to be.
Last summer, the distinction went to Brian Mani, whose performance in “Death of a Salesman” showed just who Willy Loman is meant to be.
This summer, James Ridge is doing something similar in his title role in “Cyrano de Bergerac.”
In each case, you find the audience so blown away that there isn’t even much discussion as it leaves the theater.
Cyrano, first staged in 1897 by author Edmond Rostand, is the story of Hercule Savinien de Bergerac, a French soldier noted for his military powers, his abilities as a poet and as a musician, and also for his large nose.
His preoccupation with the nose leads to a crisis of self-confidence that keeps him from expressing his love for the beautiful Roxane, which might be a good thing because Roxane is taken by the appearance of a new cadet, Christian de Neuvillette, who is kind of a dunce.
Cyrano uses Christian to express his feelings for Roxane, who, in turn, assumes that Christian actually is an intellectual and poet. When Christian is killed in battle, Cyrano feels he cannot reveal the truth – that it was he who wrote the letters Roxane so cherished. She learns the truth only as Cyrano dies.
I suppose there should be a spoiler alert before saying all this, but the story is pretty well known and, honestly, don’t we all know at least one person, gifted beyond belief, who destroys his (or, I guess, her) happiness because self-doubt leads him to bizarre actions?
I’ve seen the play performed may times over the past 50 years, both in theaters and in movies. I know how the story ends.
And, yet, as I watched Ridge dying on the Spring Green stage while Roxane – played by Laura Rook – learns the truth and holds him in her arms, I found myself holding my breath and fighting back tears.
Ridge doesn’t just nail the character, he redefines Cyrano.
He doesn’t do it alone, of course. There are something like 50 actors appearing on stage and various times. Rook also delivers a powerful performance as does Danny Martinez, who plays Christian.
James DeVita, who adapted and directed the play, manages to bring Cyrano to life, not just on the stage but in the hearts of those who view it.
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