Josh DeMe, left (as soldier/poet Cyrano de Bergerac), and Christian Johnson (as Christian), far right, try to convince Brynne Hunt's Roxane to leave a battle zone in the Carbon High School production of Cyrano de Bergerac, which runs through Friday at 7 p.m.
Carbon High School's drama department sure picked a fine time to put on one of the most difficult plays in the English lexicon, Cyrano de Bergerac. It's as Shakespeare as a play can get - without actually being written by Shakespeare.
It was penned by Edmond Rostand in 1897. It has since become a classic, being performed thousands of times and made into many films, including the 1950 version which won Jose Ferrer a Best Actor Oscar in the title role, the 1988 critically-acclaimed Steve Martin comedy, Roxanne, and the popular Academy Award-nominated French version from 1990.
Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac (1619-55) was a French dramatist and duellist who is now best remembered for the many works of fiction which have been woven around his life story.
In this version, directed by Leo Paur, the lead character, played with terrific aplomb by Josh DeMe, does not wear a phony proboscis, either. Instead he allows the playwright's words to describe his homely looks and poor chances of landing the love of his life, Roxane (who, by the way, is his cousin, modern sensibilities aside).
The production seems a bit hurried because the talented youngsters that comprise the cast had barely enough time to rehearse, let alone put on a full-blown production. Scheduling conflicts with debate and other events at Carbon's auditorium necessitated a quick turnaround and just four performances (the last two being Thursday, March 4 and Friday, March 5 at 7 p.m.).
"We made a commitment and set the dates so we are obligated to put it on," said Paur who ran his charges through a frenetic last dress rehearsal on Monday evening. "A lot of people think I bit off more than I could chew with this play. Still, these kids have worked really hard to pull this off and have done a great job."
In the story, Cyrano plays a braggart and swordsman who can back up his loud threats to other soldiers and musketeers of Paris.
He is especially sensitive about his large nose and when an ignorant cad, Viscount de Valmont (Bryce Jackman) insults him, Cyrano not only defeats him in a spirited duel, but also berates him with his superior wit by composing a ballad while fighting.
Despite this fearlessness in word and deed, Cyrano has a weakness: he is in love with his unattainable cousin, Roxane (played on Thursday by freshman Brynne Hunt and on Friday by senior Lacey Jaquel Brinkerhoff).
As flighty as she is beautiful, the maiden cannot see his infatuation, instead revealing to him her true object of desire, the handsome soldier Christian (junior high student Christian Johnson in a amazingly mature reading).
Obligated to please Roxane, Cyrano is now forced to intercede on behalf of the pleasant-looking but vacant cavalier - much to his ultimate disgust. These intercessions include taking Christian's innocent jibes about his nose, writing steamy love letters and even coaching him how to speak to her in the ways of chivalrous love.
Also at the time, France is at war with Spain (ostensibly the Thirty Years War) and the sleazy Count De Guiche (a suitably wonderful foppish and nasty performance by Brandon Wheeler) sends Cyrano, Christian and his Gascony soldiers to the front.
Valmont also lusts after the fair Roxane, but has made it plain that she wants nothing to do with him. Instead of staying behind in Paris, she journeys to Arras (flirting her way through the Spanish lines) to give moral support to her cousin and Christian, who ends up dying in battle.
In an effort to preserve the deception and to keep Roxan'e image of the gallant Christian in tact, Cyrano can never reveal thr truth to her.
Years later, Roxane, now living in a convent, finally discovers that it was Cyrano who wrote her the letters and poetry and reveals that she truly does love him. Unfortunately, someone had just dropped a huge log on top of his head, so Cyrano is dying.
A bit too little, too late, but true love eventually wins out, one could suppose. In addition to the leads, fine support is added by Justin Jewks (Ragueneau ), Sheri Webster (Roxane's duenna, or chaperone), Alissa Peters and Sharme Young (as alternating LeBret's), among others.
"I wish we had more props and especially more time," lamented Paur. "But with the time we were given, these kids on stage and behind it do a great job. I am really proud of them." For more information on this production, call (801) 915-4271.