- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Theatergoers expecting a stale, boring, oft-told tale of Cyrano de Bergerac will be in for a surprise when they settle in their seats at Port Tobacco Players Theater this spring.
Director Craig Hower, assistant director Rachel Wallace and producer Carol Charnock are calling “Cyrano” — an adapted version by Michael Hollinger and Aaron Posner of the 19th-century popular drama — the “original romantic comedy.”
Hollinger and Posner’s version was first staged at the Folger Theatre in Washington, D.C., two years ago.
“I happened to see it, and it was absolutely brilliant,” Hower said.
It’s a coup for PTP, he said.
This version of “Cyrano” has only been performed once before — at the Folger — and the show’s fight choreographer, Casey Kaleba, is so enamored of the show that he will come down to the La Plata theater to work with the actors, Hower said.
The play tells the tale of Cyrano who is in love with his cousin — second cousin, he quickly points out — Roxane.
But Cyrano, who has a way with words, isn’t exactly a looker — he’s known as much for his huge nose as his smooth talking.
“Roxane has a love for him,” Hower said. “But not in the way he would like.”
Brave Christian is a handsome guy who is intimidated by no man, but one woman will trip him up and stop him dead in his tracks, Hower said.
Christian and Roxane start a relationship with Cyrano providing the poetry and pretty words for Christian that Roxane so wants to hear.
Does this sound familiar? It should.
Cyrano has “been ripped off and has inspired so many things for so long,” Hower said. “Boy loves girl, girl loves other boy.”
The cast calls for eight men and one woman.
One actor each will play the roles of Cyrano, Le Bret — Cyrano’s best friend — and Christian with a lone actress playing Roxane.
The other five men in the cast will be called on to play all the other roles — nuns, bakers, whatever.
That piece of information sent a murmur of excitement through a recent audition.
“It’s one of the refreshing parts [of this version of the play],” Hower said. “It’s so alive and so much fun to see. I don’t know from an actor’s standpoint what would be more exciting. To play Cyrano or one of the utility players — some of who are not even a man.”
The first round of auditions Feb. 1 — there was another audition Feb. 4 with additional tryouts and callbacks Feb. 6 — attracted one actress, Rebecca Raymond, who would ultimately win the role of Roxane, and seven actors.
Raymond of Leonardtown said she had been out of theater for a year but wanted to get back into it. “Cyrano” offered a perfect part for her.
“And there is only one female role,” she said, adding jokingly, “She’s the star of the show.”
Gary Maynard of La Plata is new to community theater.
He was introduced to PTP when his daughter, Anna, 13, was part of the ensemble for the company’s production of “A Christmas Carol.”
He volunteered to help backstage with construction or anything else and was hooked.
“It was a lot of fun, and we had such a good group of people,” said Maynard, who last acted in an eighth-grade play. When the auditions were announced, he figured he would give it a shot.
He was cast as Ragueneau, the poetry-loving pastry chef.
The audition process called for groups of actors to run through a scene, then Hower would ask them to trade parts and redo it.
The process allows Hower and Wallace to see as many combinations as possible.
Who goes best with whom, who is best for a particular role, who interprets characters in original ways — Wallace said showrunners are looking for all of these when casting.
Hower is looking forward to bringing Hollinger and Posner’s adaptation to the local stage.
So is actor Neil Twohig, cast as Desiree, who also saw the play at the Folger.
“It is a great show,” said Twohig who lives in Waldorf and was a theater major in college. “The adaptation is really interesting and moves really fast.”
Traditional dramatic productions of the play include a cast in double digits but not the new adaptation.
“The original is very heavy,” Hower said. The new take isn’t so bogged down.
“I loved how compact it was,” Hower said of the recent interpretation. “I’m really excited to see it just read. But the fun really begins when we go on stage.”