Cyrano cuts to the chase
- Paul Duchene
- Portland Tribune - Features
Less will most certainly be more when the pocket-sized version of 'Cyrano de Bergerac,' 'Cyrano,' hits the Winningstad Theatre, courtesy of Oregon Children's Theatre.
Edmond Rostand's play will be boiled down to three actors playing 10 characters Ñ about half the cast of Rostand's 1897 play about the French poet and duelist who is remembered for his big nose and even bigger heart.
The adaptation, recommended for ages 8 and up, was made by Belgian director Jo Roets, whose Blauw Vier theater company brought the production to Seattle Children's Theatre in 1998. Two years later 'Cyrano' played New York's Kennedy Center, where OCT's director, Stan Foote, saw it.
'It was pretty amazing. I just fell in love with the piece for young audiences,' says Foote, who has taught and directed in Portland for 25 years.
He's not intimidated by the Winningstad's 'phone booth' proportions, either.
'I'm so used to working in odd spaces,' he says. 'They challenge you in positive and negative ways.'
Foote's cast includes Leif Norby as Cyrano, Laura Faye Smith as Roxanne (and others) and Todd Hermanson as Christian (and others).
Norby has acted with most of Portland's top theater groups and comes from 'Child of Pleasure' at CoHo Theatre. He also has been in 'Will Rogers Follies,' 'Sweeney Todd,' 'Hamlet,' 'All My Sons' and 'Big River.'
Smith also is a veteran of the Portland theater scene and has played with OCT before as Mary in 'It's a Wonderful Life' and as Pippi in 'Pippi Longstocking.'
Hermanson comes to OCT from Coeur d'Alene (Idaho) Summer Theatre and 'The Music Man,' 'The Pajama Game,' 'Paint Your Wagon,' 'A Little Night Music' and 'Annie Get Your Gun.' He's the theater director at Tigard High School.
Rostand's play is about a real person: There really was a Savinien Cyrano de Bergerac who lived from 1619 to 1655. He did have a legendary nose, and he was a famous duelist and satirist, known for his poetry and four books, including two works of science fiction.
In the play, Cyrano falls in love with the beautiful Roxanne, who herself falls for Christian, an inarticulate lieutenant of Cyrano's. Cyrano writes poems for Christian to tell her what he himself feels.
'The whole concept of the play is about self-image,' Foote says. 'Cyrano suffers from a poor self-image. He's a great character in everybody else's mind. He does it to himself Ñ that's his obstacle. He doesn't wear the red nose all the time; he takes it off and talks about it.'
Foote says Cyrano's problem brings back memories of his own insecurities in high school.
'I had size 10 1/2 shoes in the seventh grade. I thought I looked like a clown, and people noticed all the time. Eventually I grew into them.'