Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
AIRDATE: JULY 3, 2009
It’s summer, and Beauty is very much on the mind — and on the stage. Obsession with physical perfection is at the heart of two plays: one classic, one world premiere.
The classic is the masterwork of Edmond Rostand, written in 1897, based on the life of the 17th century French poet, dramatist and duelist, Cyrano de Bergerac. He’s a larger-than-life character, with a larger than average nose. It’s his bane, his burden and his motivation for achieving the utmost of agility and proficiency – at swordsmanship, wit, verse, music, medicine – and also hyperbole, insolence, arrogance and pride. And yet, his protruding proboscis prevents him from expressing his love for his lovely distant cousin, Roxane . Just when he thinks she may have noticed him at last, it’s his handsome fellow soldier, Christian, that she’s fallen for. Looks trump intellect once again.
Christian is too shy and inarticulate to woo Roxane , so Cyrano provides the words, pouring out his emotions in someone else’s name. When Roxane finally finds out the truth, it’s too late. Lives have already been destroyed in a lie of love.
The romantic swashbuckler is getting a spectacular production at the Old Globe. It’s gorgeous to look at, and breathtaking to hear. The lyrical, poetic translation, by the late, great Anthony Burgess, is sublime. And Patrick Page is electrifying as the brilliant, sensitive cadet with the oversized olfactory organ. He IS Cyrano, in all his lovable, frustrating, self-aggrandizing and self-effacing glory. He steals and breaks our hearts. Under the expert direction of Darko Tresnjak, the whole ensemble is marvelous. This is theater you must not miss. Beauty be damned.
Beauty is revered, venerated, practically worshipped in Claudia Shear’s new play, “Restoration,” commissioned by the La Jolla Playhouse. It’s also based in fact, a woman’s year spent restoring Michelangelo’s David earlier this decade. Shear plays Giulia, the frumpy, churlish restorer who falls in love with the most beautiful man on earth, the statue she’s working on compulsively. She also has a surly relationship with her aging academic mentor and a warm and soft-hearted Italian guard in the Florence gallery where David resides. There are three women who are dispensable to the plot, though one represents the female pulchritude Giulia herself was denied, and the encumbrances that accompany her good looks. There are some alluring moments, but also many didactic ones; the narrative needs tightening and reshaping. But the production is stunning. In a titillating design, David is rarely shown in his entirety; we get glimpses of his various parts, and he’s still staggering. Christopher Ashley has directed a wonderful cast. Further work on the piece should produce something that engages the heart as well as the mind.
And as for Beauty: well, we all know it fades; but burnished by art, it can endure.
“Restoration” runs through July 19, in the Potiker Theatre of the La Jolla Playhouse.
“Cyrano de Bergerac” continues in repertory with two Shakespeare plays, outdoors on the Old Globe’s Festival Stage, through September 27.
©2009 PAT LAUNER