Posts Tagged ‘Cyrano’

Before our show in Westchester, we had what amounted to a day and a half in the area, which almost all of us used to go into the city. I visited briefly at different times with my good friends Emily, Alex, and Stephanie, and had a truly lovely time with each of them; the wonderful Dan Kennedy also joined me on a couple of occasions. (In my fantasies of ‘Piercing Eloquence Visits New York’ I wanted to see a few more friends, but one can only do so much with a day and a half.) Stephanie has a brief but quite amusing and quite accurate account of our Chinatown brunch on her blog.

I also saw a couple of plays on Broadway, which translates to about one-eighth of my month’s salary. And that was getting a half-price ‘student rush’ ticket (God bless Boston University for not putting an expiration date on my I.D.) for Pygmalion, and my lovely friend Alex Savronsky getting me a discounted ticket for Cyrano, as he is in the cast. (You know what that means: I am now only one degree away from Kevin Kline. This is an even more momentous event to being one degree away from John Cleese, thanks to Lewis who is currently filming Pink Panther Deux, and almost as momentous as being no-degrees away from Jason Isaacs. That’s right. I may be no one, but my friends are famous.)

Both of these shows were in their previews; I was actually fortunate enough to be part of Cyrano’s very first paying audiences. Despite the fact that I saw Cyrano from the second-to-last row in the upper balcony and Pygmalion from row eight in the orchestra, I had a much better experience seeing Cyrano. This was also no thanks to the people surrounding me, as the woman behind me literally said, at intermission, “So I have no idea what’s going on except for that there’s this guy named Sergio. I don’t know what the chick’s name is.” Can you not, I thought, read the front of your program? Or the marquee? Or are you expecting someone named Kiren-o to suddenly show up in the second act? I would love to believe that she was joking, but her friend replied, in all earnestness, “Yeah, I liked The Lion King better. There was always something to look at.”

But I wept through the entire last scene. I was gripped with the apprehension that it is impossible to have more pathos in a scene than exists in Cyrano’s closing, and I haemorrhaged tears. I received odd sorts of cringingly sympathetic looks as I was going down to the lobby, and it was only when I had the good fortune to go to the ladies’ room that I remembered I was wearing non-waterproof mascara that day and thus my cheeks were striped like a zebra.

Kevin Kline was, of course, brilliant; as I can only imagine that he received rave reviews on his exit from the womb, this statement contains about as much new information as ‘The earth travels around the sun.’ I had the good fortune to see him as Falstaff in Henry IV Condensed at Lincoln Center a few years ago, so I was fully prepared for his brilliance. But, though I certainly knew of her, I had never seen Jennifer Garner before (in anything…why yes, I do live in a box), so I was completely bowled over. She had a gorgeous synthesis of body and text and voice, which carried her emotions so well that I, in row 289, was able to feel them. That’s amazing, especially from someone who is also such a successful film actor—though Alex tells me that she was originally a classical actress before someone said, “Hey, how would you like to be famous?” At least, that is how the fantasy continues to run in our poor little classical actor minds.

To sum up: Jennifer Garner wins the Ellen’s Weekend of Broadway Theatre Film Star On Stage Award, beating out Claire Danes in Pygmalion. I thought Claire Danes was quite good most of the time (the very difficult Eliza Breaks Down After the Party scene wasn’t quite as good), but I was fundamentally unmoved. Jefferson Mays as Henry Higgins was also excellent, as was Jay O. Sanders as Doolittle. Sandra Shipley played Mrs. Eynsford-Hill, who, because she graces the Boston area occasionally, thus enabled me to say to Dan and Chris (my theatre dates that evening), “Hey, I lost an award to that woman!” (I may be no one, but I have lost awards to people who are famous.) To be quite fair to Miss Danes and the entire production of Pygmalion, as if they had any care for my opinion whatsoever, I am most certainly a tougher critic on the play as I played Eliza myself a couple of years ago. Which is not to say I think I did it better, by any means, but I’ve simply a great deal of Opinions about how it ought to be done. And honestly, as much as I admired Jefferson Mays, I rather missed my dear Kevin Ashworth’s Henry, and preferred it on a number of counts. It may simply be that we have an affection for our OWN version of the play, which, because we once accepted it as the ultimate reality for that text, is difficult to dislodge.

For this reason, my illustration to this weekend of star-studded casts is a picture of Kevin Ashworth and unfamous me in Pygmalion, from just about three years ago. (I may be no one, but I run this blog.) It’s mostly because I love this picture; I think it speaks volumes about the Eliza-Higgins relationship. I especially love how Kevin is kind of flinching.

I won't go near the king, not if I'm going to have me head cut off!

If I could have seen one more thing on Broadway, it would have been Mauritius, so that I could officially slag them off for not hiring Michael Aronov. No, I don’t know the man, but he made that brilliant play more brilliant, and I can’t imagine any one giving it the mixed reviews it’s been getting if they saw him leap half the length of the entire stage saying (and here I paraphrase) “How about we talk about the STAMPS!” It was one of those Finest Moments of Theatre, Shakespearean or Otherwise, That I Have Ever Witnessed. Had I been wearing non-waterproof mascara, I would have been a herd of zebras from the amount of tears that I shed, I was laughing so hard.

Valhalla, New York, October 13:

On Saturday, we moved to Off-Off-Off-Off-Off-Off-Broadway for our own performance of Merchant of Venice. It seemed like one of our sparser audiences yet; the sixty or so audience members who attended may not have looked as dwarfed in other spaces, but as the auditorium was vaguely reminiscent of an IMAX theatre, I think everyone, actors and audience alike, felt swamped in space.

But sometimes I feel freed by a small audience, and feel a greater devotion to the play itself, for its own sake. For example, I think the best performance of A Doll’s House I ever gave was for about six people. I’m not sure I could call this performance of Merchant the best, if only because I could tell that it was not the best show for a few of the other actors, and I think the excellence of our whole ensemble is integral to the excellence of any single person’s performance, because that is when we are listening the best, and most strongly attempting to communicate. At least, I know that I admire my troupe members so greatly, that I know I must be better when I am striving to match their fire.

But all this being said, I had an absolutely revelatory show. It may not have even appeared very different, from the outside, but there was, within me, an utter fullness of consciousness, or perhaps an utter voiding of my own self. I felt a wholeness through a marriage of my intention and the space: the entirety of the world and my mind, which had become like a deep bay, with my own life its faint, insignificant, bottom. There is much more to it, but it is extraordinarily difficult to explain, a difficulty compounded by a wilfully uncommunicative strain in my thoughts. Perhaps I will feel free to talk more about it after the long run of these plays are over, or perhaps I never will. I apologise if it seems odd to have ‘confessions’ in which I will not make confessions, but it would seem a dishonesty not to mention it at all, and a violation to make a full disclosure. Chalk it up to my bizarre nineteenth-century mind, if you will, be it an overly Romantic spirituality or an overly Victorian prudence. If I were greater, or if, indeed, I thought I had any worth at all, I would share it. But I am nothing, and it is not mine: what is mine, is not mine. I have made a kind of promise of reticence, which, if I were to break, might spoil the most precious jewel of my days.

One certainly delightful element of this performance was that we were joined by Ginna’s boyfriend Sheffield. He himself has been in Merchant of Venice a couple of times, once as Gratiano and once (I believe) as Salerio, which meant that when Evan picked him to be Sir Oracle, he spoke the line with Evan, “I am Sir Oracle, and when I ope my lips let no dog bark.” THAT doesn’t happen every day! I also indicated Sheffield on the “If thou wert near a lewd interpreter” line, as Ginna correctly asserted afterwards, he was probably the only audience member ever to get the joke.

Also exciting was the fact that our Off-Off-Off-Off-&c. Broadway run was also our brush with Hollywood, as we were joined by a couple of lovely people (one of whom is the daughter of ASC’s Executive director) who were filming us, in the interest of proposing a kind of touring theatre reality television show. This will no doubt please my grandmother, who, not two weeks before, when she came to see Merchant in Baltimore, was insisting that someone really ought to make a television show about touring theatre. “Or this could really be a book. You should write a book about it,” she said to me, at least twice. I did not say “A book! Hey, who needs a book when you got blog posts the size of these?” because I am not a) a stand-up comedian, b) a New Yorker, c) a New Yorker stand-up comedian, or d) Paul Reisman. Also e) I had not started writing Bardolatry and Peace for each blog entry at that point.

But a few people were interviewed, and they got dramatic shots of us trying to figure out where to set the tables and fixing Alisa’s Star of David necklace. I hope we gave them useful clips, though I cannot help but think that we were not quite as dramatic as one expects we might be, in theory. No one really hates each other (to my knowledge), and no one is secretly making out (also to my knowledge…though perhaps if it’s ‘secret,’ I wouldn’t be aware of it, by its very nature). I walked around feeling as though I wanted to help their filmic efforts, whilst also being really glad, personally, that I am not on a reality television show. I think I missed out on that desire, when they were passing it around. It was probably because, whilst all the twenty-first-century babies were lining up to be born, I was dawdling about in the nineteenth century collecting preferences for really long-winded prose.


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