April 2, 2016
Cyrano’s nose is great.
Super-long, warty, bent, broken (one imagines) numerous times, the nose provides a convincing reason for Cyrano’s suicidal self-loathing (“How can anyone love a face like this?”). His ugly honker drives him into increasingly arcane and abtruse machinations of deception – he deceives the fair Roxanne, the handsome Christian, himself. Non-fakey (unlike the Pinocchio-like probiscus in Steve Martin’s bloodless filmRoxanne), the nose truly makes the story work. According to the program, the nose was designed by one Robert Dunn. Mr. Dunn merits no bio; he deserves one.
C. (Theater Latté Da, performing at the Ritz Theater, through April 24) is adapted from Edmund Rostand’s oft-performed (to the point of cliché-ness) play Cyrano de Bergerac. But (unsurprisingly, given Latté Da’s provenance as MN’s preeminent purveyor of music theater – now that Skylark Opera, tragically, is on the rocks) C. is a musical. Featuring gorgeous music by Robert Elhai, C. soars and flies, very watchable despite some flaws (about which more in a moment).
You know the story: Cyrano, he of the grande schnozzola del mundo, sees himself as ugly and unlovable. Beloved of Roxanne (and unable to tell her so), he agrees to write poetical letters (many of which are done, effectively, as songs) to Roxanne on behalf of the (it must be said) dull, though virile and handsome, Christian. The letters thrill Roxanne (naturally; they’re terrific). She falls heels over head in love with Christian. Ah, but in the end, all is revealed (and of course I am not going to reveal how this happens).
C. is the Bradley Greenwald show. Mr. G wrote the effective book and lyrics. And as if that weren’t enough, he also plays the lonely and loving Cyrano. And sings many of Mr. Elhai’s brilliant songs (and holy moley can this man sing). And wields a mean rapier (fights nicely designed by Annie Enneking). There may be a certain sameness, perhaps, to his performance (one of the play’s flaws), but who cares: I pant endlessly to Greenwald’s multi-faceted work. He is brilliant, one of the best actors we have. And he provides the main reason to see C.
Flaw #2 (now that I’m on the subject): length. C. is two and a half hours long (with intermission). Exhausting. Also, there’s the headache-inducing chemical smoke. There. Ignore me.
Performances in C., under the crisp hand of director Peter Rothstein, are, as one has come to expect with this theater, excellent. As Roxanne, Kendall Anne Thompson is winsome and fetching. She gives her character dignity and power and makes up for a slight brittleness via outstanding musical chops. David Darrow as the blustery and fearless Christian is wonderful. Ditto the basso profundo James Ramlet. The quirky Max Wojtanowicz made me giggle endlessly. My sincere apologies to those I’ve left out.
Everyone, I have to say, to a person, sings brilliantly. This, combined with a good story, Greaanwald’s brilliance, and despite a few minor flaws, makes C. the best show currently running in the Twins. It’s the play to see. So see it.
John Olive is a writer living in Minneapolis. His book about the magic of bedtime stories, Tell Me A Story In The Dark, has just been published. In progress: a theatrical portrait of the great Anna May Wong. Please visit John’s website.