Nudges our Hearts
BY Iride Aparicio

Photos by: Kevin Berne

  J.ANTHONY CRANE playing the role of  CYRANO

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA –  To discern the worth of this play, CYRANO, needs to be understood. To understand it, we need to learn who Cyrano, the man, was, the history of France during the  year 1897  when the play premiere (on December 28) at Theatre de la Porte-Saint Martin in Paris, and the “message” that EDMOND RONSTAND, its  playwright, was trying to convey to his audience.

RONSTAND based his play on SAVINIEN CYRANO de BERGERAC (1619-1655)  a French dramatist, novelist and soldier born in Paris. He actually had a big nose and was known for his mastery on words and for his skills in dueling. After being wounded in the Thirty Years War, CYRANO left the military and enrolled at the Collége de Lisieux where he studied philosophy under PIERRE GASSENDI, a teacher known for his libertine views. During his life, SAVINIEN wrote two plays: "La Mort d’Agruippine" and "Le Pedant Joué" and published his libertine views in newspapers.  Probably assassinated by Cardinal RICHELEU, because of his political views,  he died on July 28, l655, when a piece of cement from a building fell on his head.

RONSTAND, wrote "CYRANO DE BERGERAC "his play in "verso Alejandrino" (an Spanish verse meter of 14 syllables divided in two lines (Hemistiquios) rhyming at the end of the lines). At first reading, the play seems to be the love story of a man, with a protruding nose, who falls in love with his beautiful cousin ROXANE, yet, in his nobility and his love for her, helps the man she loves to win her.

In EDMOND ROSTAND’s play, Cyrano, its leading character, could be described as erudite, gentle, elegant, well-mannered, courageous, romantic, and pretentious, at times. Intelligent, and the possessor of a brilliant mind: he can compose music, write plays and has the ability to express his thoughts poetically by the use of his words. In contrast, this gentle poet is also a good fighter As a soldier, he  is considered “The best swordsman in Paris.”

 De Valbert (KIT WILDEr) locks swords with Cyrano (R)  (J.ANTONY CRA

And as mentioned in his play several times by its writer, Cyrano, the man, has “Panache.” The word is a French derivative of the Spanish word “Penacho” (with and e) which is the name given to the feathers sticking up on top of some birds foreheads. During the Golden Age of Spain, the Penacho (with an e) was the name of the feathered ornament that the Spanish  and the French soldiers wore on top of their hats to identify their regiments. At that time, the soldiers' Penachos color, also identified, "The Code or Honor" followed by the regiment that the soldiers belonged to.

So we need to understand that in ROSTAND’s  play, when Cyrano (the character) refers to his “Panache” (The name he uses to describe the white plume on his hat) what he is also identifying with the CODE of HONOR of his regiment, which is: Courage, Integrity and honor, and with his own, CODE OF HONOR which is to act as he believes in his heart, that he should act. 

 Masterfully directed by ROBERT KELLEY, The REGIONAL PREMIERE of  CYRANO, that is being presented by TREATRE WORKS Silicon Valley, is a wonderful rendition of the  ROSTAND play.In their casting, of the drama, Directors LESLIE MARTINSON and New York Casting Director ALAN FILDERMAN selected actors who bring their characters to life, and the translation of  the dialogue by MICHAEL HOLLINGER & Aaron POSNER  is close enough to the French version to give its true meaning to the story.

The beginning of the play make us wonder who is this Gascon (boastful) man at the Hôtet de Burgogne who dares to interrupt the play “Clorise,” which has  Montfleury, an actor (who has courted Roxane) playing the role of Phaedo. by shouting “Rogue, did I not forbid you for one month?” Cyrano (played by J. ANTHONY CRANE) stops the show with his shouting, manages to get Montfeury off the stage, starts a sword duel with the Vicomte De Valbert while composing a verse, and kills him at the end. This is the way the audience is introduced to Cyrano in the play.

Le BRET and CYRANO.jpg

After that we meet another important character in the play. Le Bret, (SULLIVAN) who on that night, gave us a true-to life performance as Cyrano’s friend who tries to keep Cyrano away for trouble and warns him of bad things that may happen to him because of his volatile temper.

The role of ROXANE (SHARON RIETKERK ) in the play CYRANO is to represent a young shallow romantic girl from the French nobility, who longs to be swept off her feet by a handsome man who could reveal to her, using flourishing words, how much he loved her. RIETKERK did that well and at the end let us experience the growth of her character in her felt words to Cyrano: “The truth is that I took to idolizing you one evening, when below my window in a voice I did not know before, your soul began to reveal itself. ending with the words: ”“the voice in the night, it was yours.”

In his role as Christian, (CHAD DEVERMAN) the man that ROXANE loves, DEVERMAN gave us some realistic acting in some scenes, and in others the acting that allow us to detect that he has “acting” the part. At the end, however, his acting got even and his death scene was acted well.

The best performance of the night, on Press opening night, was the one of CRANE. The role of Cyrano, is difficult, because it demands lots of physical action, and many changes of emotion because Cyrano is human: insecure at times and at others boisterous. He has courage, yet with the woman he loves, he is afraid to be rejected. He is capable to feel a great passion and yet, he can turn off his sensitivity in battle. As Cyrano, CRANE played the role of  the poet and a the dualism in his personality effectively, which is remarkable, because CYRANO is one of the most difficult roles for any actor.

On press opening night, CRANE also mastered all Cyrano'semotions well,  kept the focus on the humanity of his character and at the end  uttered  his last lines with such “Panache” that brought tears to our eyes.

As he is dying, he recognizes his real enemies, (which are also our enemies) one by one: They are hypocrisy, compromises, and prejudice. “Spite of your worse, something will still be left me to take whether I go. And tonight when I enter God’s house in saluting broadly will I sweep the azure threshold with what despite of all I carry forth, unblemished and unbent. My panache.” (His code of honor)

And if CYRANO the play is still playing today and attracting audiences, is because Cyrano, the character, still nudges our hearts. It represents the ideal man: Intelligent,  sensitive, romantic, honest, gallant, loyal, courageous. What used to be, the prototype of the French Gascon, in the Golden Age of France.

Roxane and CYRANO.jpg

CYRANO will continue playing at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts until May 1. For Tickets call (650) 463-l960 or visit www.theatreworks. org