PORT GAMBLE — Man, that Edmond Rostand must’ve been something
during around-the-dinner-table conversations.
Dude could wax poetic. His play filled the mouth, and powered
the pen, of one of literature’s most famous word-wielders, Cyrano
de Bergerac, that silver-tongued devil who could silence the
insults of a rival, or quicken the heart of a lady, faster than you
could say “panache.”
The play, translated by Brian Hooker and adapted by actor Frank
Langella to put audiences on a first-name basis, has a lot of
words. Fancy words, in eloquent and often poetic sequence. But it’s
more than just the words.
And so is Port Gamble Theater Company’s current production,
which finished up its first weekend of performances in front of a
remarkably (given the idyllic weather outside) robust matinee
gathering. The Scott Snively-directed outing is generally
well-acted and well-mounted, and thoroughly well costumed and
wigged. It manages to give playgoers enough to look at so that the
play doesn’t have to rest on Rostand’s laurels alone.
Cyrano was a man who could carve up all comers with either his
sabre or his vocabulary. An early scene in which he flattens a
would-be opponent, who has hurled a half-baked insult of his
plus-sized nose, by cannonading 20 back, each of them infinitely
more clever and all of them categorized by type.
He’s got it all — a great swordsman, a walking poetry
encyclopedia, the envy of his fellow men. What he hasn’t got is the
confidence in his other countless attributes to think that his love
for his cousin, Roxane, will ever be anything but hopeless, because
of one defect that’s as plain as the
nose on his face.
Above all, Cyrano talks … and talks, and talks. Even when he’s
in full-tilt swordfight mode, he’s also engaged in one-sided
The guy performs his own eulogy, for Pete’s sake.
That makes the role a mouthful. But it’s nothing that Jim
Wingren, prosthetic proboscis and all, can’t handle. Wingren might
underplay a bit, but it’s understandable, given both his
character’s aloof nature and a line load that is every bit as
decorative as it is voluminous. He manages to find the emotion of
the key moments, and mine all of Cyrano’s humor, too, which — in
the midst of all the flowery language — contains a considerable
number of one-liners and comebacks worthy of Vaudeville.
“I shall die,” his protege, Christian, tells him during a
lovestruck tirade about his obsession with Roxane.
“Well,” Cyrano deadpans back, considering the upside of that
statement, “less noise …”
Wingren also designed and wrangled construction of the
attractive and versatile set, and choreographed the fight scene in
which Cyrano toys with a challenger (Ian Snively) before
unceremoniously running him through.
Cyrano isn’t the only one who can slap a few words together.
Roxane herself admits to hear “those pretty nothings that are
everything.” As played by Katy Trichler, Roxane is shallow, moved
by words that are pretty but empty, until time and tragedy teach
her about real love. Mason Enfinger is suitably sophomoric as
Christian, gallant as a soldier but a loser with the ladies — at
least until Cyrano has his back.
Everyone else in Snively’s cast of a dozen is adequate if not
better, with Paul Bryan providing an amply oily villain in DeGuise
(that’s the character’s name; he’s not a villain in disguise … just
felt the need to point that out) and Gillian McCormick a beguiling
and expressive mute (admittedly, I’ve always been a sucker for a
good mute, especially given the irony of this play being so heavy
Costumes by Beth Ann Galloway and wigs by Elyse Sollitto are
both excellent, and Joanie Peterson earns twin kudos for costume
help and set painting.
There will be some, I know, who won’t feel like they can keep up
with “Cyrano,” who’ll consider it too difficult an afternoon or
evening spent, in baseball parlance, catching nine innings of what
But the language — the heart-quickening expressions, the
rapid-fire insults and French upper-crust comedy — is simply too
beautiful to be missed.
And the production props up the language, instead of being
buried beneath it. It’s one of the most ambitious things PGTC has
done yet, and they’ve responded with a good story, well told.
Who: Port Gamble Theater Company
What: Adaptation by Frank Langella of the play by Edmond
Rostand, translated by Brian Hooker
Where: Port Gamble Theater, 4839 NE View Dr., Port Gamble
When: Through May 3; 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m.
Information: 360-977-7135, portgambletheater.com