By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
Similarly, language lies at the core of Sachs' Cyrano, here directed by Simon Levy. In Deaf West Theatre tradition, it's a bilingual production, with deaf actors signing their roles, simultaneously translated in spoken voice by multicultural actors partnered near them onstage or by words projected onto a series of wide-screen monitors included in Jeff McLaughlin's minimalistic, functional set.
Having Cyrano as a kind of Beat poet who crashes poetry jams starts to feel a bit askew, perhaps because of the animation in the body language and vivid facial expressions of Troy Kotsur's ebullient Cyrano. Imagine an ensemble of hipsters doing children's theater.
It doesn't take long, however, for the childlike energy to take over the ensemble and the story, which is really theme-and-variation on Cinderella. Cyrano finally gets to the ball and meets his princess, Roxie, only to discover that she disassociates him from the words she's been cherishing, words he's been feeding her through his brother's cellphone. She loves his words but she's more beguiled by his brother, Chris (Paul Raci), who can talk, and who Roxie believes can speak the kind of poetry that stirs her.
5060 Fountain Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90029
Category: Music Venues
Region: Out of Town
In Rostand's 1897 version, Christian is a handsome soldier but also a dolt with words, which is why Cyrano has to supply them under cover of darkness. Roxanne is overwhelmed by Christian's good looks, and connected to the words she is duped into believing are his. Rostand's play is about the disconnect between appearances and our souls.
Here, there's a mildly subversive sweetness to Roxie's infatuation with an aging rocker. ("I know I'm no Justin Bieber," the weathered-faced Chris fires back after one of her innuendos about how long he's been a musician.) The underlying issue, however, is her inability to "see" the soul of Cyrano, the soul of somebody with a hearing impediment, even when she learns the words she so loved came from him. The political term is audism, or bigotry against the deaf, which, in one of the play's more incisive insights, is a bigotry Cyrano has internalized, refusing to participate in a local "deaf poetry jam."
Sachs' treatment of the story teeters into sentimentality, a minor impediment to the production's glorious swirl of words floating around the stage, sometimes connected, sometimes disembodied from the speakers uttering them, sometimes signed, sometimes broadcast via video screens.
So what happens when you try to tell a truth that lies deep in your heart, and it can't be heard? The Heiress concerns the estrangement from a kind of deafness that has little to do with a physical disability, when Catherine's father takes seriously neither her words nor those of her suitor. Sachs' Cyrano brings that idea home.
CYRANO | By Stephen Sachs, inspired by Edmond Rostand's play Cyrano de Bergerac | Presented by Deaf West and Fountain theaters, 5060 Fountain Ave., Hlywd. | Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. | Through June 10 | (323) 663-1525 | FountainTheatre.com
THE HEIRESS | By Ruth and Augustus Goetz, suggested by the Henry James novel Washington Square | Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena | Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m. | Through May 20 | (626) 356-PLAY | pasadenaplayhouse.org