The Sonoma County Repertory Theater will go out on a high note with their production of Cyrano. The company’s artistic director, Scott Phillips, introduced the show to a very visible mixed blessing. The sold out audience was pleased to see him there, and cheered, but quickly sighed when he reminded us it was the final production. Fortunately, the theater assembled a talented team to construct Cyrano’s world. I was grateful to be there on “pay what you can” night and make the effort to attend for my 7th show of this year.
Director Jennifer King helmed many of the early shows in Sebastopol, according to history (I wasn’t there to see them) and clearly is familiar with the space. She cast husband and wife team Keith and Allison Baker in the leading roles, supported by Chad Yarish playing multiple male roles. I’d seen the Bakers perform together last year at Cinnabar Theater in Petaluma. That show, “I ❤ You Nosferatu”, was easily the biggest surprise of my theatrical year. I had expected it to be just a comedy, and found it to be witty, clever, and current, much more immediate than I expected. The two of them cannily acted opposite each other over a live Skype conversation. He was visible to the audience, and she was hidden backstage. The play had been chosen at short notice when the original script was not ready in time for production. But all this could be covered in another blog entry.
The Bakers got to show their more serious sides in this production, which condensed the tale of Cyrano into a manageable two hour running time. It did seem like it picked and chose what elements of the story to emphasize. I was thrown off by a tonal shift about 2/3 of the way through the show, partially necessitated by the story, but it may have been possible to lead up to it another way. The three actors were clearly having fun with their roles, getting to stretch and play different parts while incorporating live music and choreography.
Speaking of tone and theatre, an “only in the theatre” moment happened towards the end of the play. One character reached a death scene, and as if on cue, loud ambulance sirens suddenly leaked into the theater space from Main Street outside. The actors stayed in the moment.
Revisiting the story of Cyrano made me suddenly remember the first time I had encountered the tale as a 12 year old. This was in its then-modern film incarnation, with the genders reversed, in the 1996 film The Truth About Cats and Dogs. I was more interested in following the exploits of my then-favorite actress Janeane Garofalo than exploring the source material of the story. I do remember comparisons to Cyrano being explicitly mentioned in most reviews of the film. I hadn’t had occasion to draw further comparisons between the film and play, but now I see that the comparisons are/were extremely clear, and well thought out by the screenwriter, Audrey Wells.