AISLE SAY Philadelphia


Adapted and Directed by Jo Roets
Arden Theatre, 40 North 2nd Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106
Playing through May 13, 2001
Website: Box Office: (215) 922-1122

Reviewed by Claudia Perry

Arden Theatre Company presents Seattle Children's Theatre production of "Cyrano", adapted and directed by Jo Roets, based on the play by Edmond Rostand. Written in 1897, starring Coquelin in the title role, the play was an immediate hit. Subsequently it has been translated into many languages and performed by the world's most notable actors. It has been the subject of several movies and has been turned into a musical. In its most recent variation, it was transformed by Steve Martin into the movie entitled, "Roxanne".

This production is a pared down version of the original three-hour play, that seems to be geared for a teenage audience. It also looks like the kind of show that can travel easily from school to school, for the outer trappings of this production are sparse. The costumes are merely suggestive of the era, and the stage is almost bare excepting a half staircase, assorted musical instruments and old-time sound effect contraptions. There are boxes filled with pebbles upon which the actors can walk and run. There are stones which they can strew into another box to simulate the sound of rain. There is a wind machine and a thunder sheet and various bird and duck calling whistles. The sounds that are created on stage by the actors are truly the cleverest part of the show.

The costumes at best are rather dull and confusing. What era are we in? The men at times wear old-fashioned feathered Musketeer hats, but Roxanne wears a mini-skirt. The director has also chosen not to issue the character of Cyrano a fake nose, but rather for us to imagine one.

The three actors, Alban Dennis as De Guiche and assorted roles, Kari McGee as Roxanne and Todd Jefferson Moore as Cyrano, deliver very good ensemble playing.

Yet, this staging never felt like a children's piece to me. Cyrano de Bergerac is essentially a very sophisticated love story. It is about real love as opposed to superficial love. It is about loving someone's soul rather than just their body. I think for young children this is a hard concept to grasp unless it is put in plainer terms. I think they need to see that big nose. They need to see why Cyrano is so embarrassed to show his love for Roxanne. Conversely, for teenagers, it's terrific. For every teenager imagines that s/he is ugly at some point in his/her life. And in this production they can easily relate to Cyrano's pain and shyness. This show should have been labeled for Young Audiences, and not as a Children's Theatre piece, for it lacks the visual panache that engages the younger audience members.

So if you have children, ages 12 and up, I think they might enjoy this production on many different levels. It remains a beautiful play filled with heroic sentiments about love, life and loyalty. All wonderful attributes to be teaching our youthful members of society.

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