Friday, May 25, 2018
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Music-Theater-Dance

Heart and humor: Village Players present French classic 'Cyrano'

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    Cyrano, portrayed by Justin Heath Huber, left, recites a poem to Roxane, portrayed by Emily Waters, during a Village Players rehearsal of Cyrano at Village Players Theatre in Toledo on Tuesday, May 8, 2018.

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    Many of the characters open up the play during a Village Players rehearsal of Cyrano at Village Players Theatre in Toledo on Tuesday, May 8, 2018.

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    Cyrano, portrayed by Justin Heath Huber, during a Village Players rehearsal of Cyrano at Village Players Theatre in Toledo on Tuesday, May 8, 2018.

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    Cyrano, portrayed by Justin Heath Huber, left, duels De Valvert, portrayed by Brice Armstrong, during a Village Players rehearsal of Cyrano at Village Players Theatre in Toledo on Tuesday, May 8, 2018.

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    Ligniere, the drunkard character portrayed by M. James Foust, left, and Christian, portrayed Zac Gilley, during a Village Players rehearsal of Cyrano at Village Players Theatre in Toledo on Tuesday, May 8, 2018.

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    De Valvert, portrayed by Brice Armstrong, left, and Cyrano, portrayed by Justin Heath Huber, duel during a Village Players rehearsal of Cyrano at Village Players Theatre in Toledo on Tuesday, May 8, 2018.

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    Le Bret, portrayed by Evan James Copeland, during a Village Players rehearsal of Cyrano at Village Players Theatre in Toledo on Tuesday, May 8, 2018.

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Who’s in love with whom? 

That is one of the big questions in the play Cyrano, opening Friday at the Village Players Theatre. 

When the story opens, Cyrano de Bergerac, a soldier in 1640 France, is in love with Roxane, who is in love with the handsome Christian, one of Cyrano’s fellow soldiers. Cyrano helps him out by writing beautiful love letters for Christian to give to Roxane, in the words Cyrano always wanted to say to her. Roxane has no idea that Cyrano is in love with her.

This play is an American adaptation by Michael Hollinger and Aaron Posner from Hollinger’s translation of the 1897 original by Edmond Rostand, written in French. 

“It’s a very funny show,” said Bill Quinlan, who is directing the Village Players production, and it’s often described as a comedy, but Quinlan thinks of it as “more a romance with a lot of humor in it.”

Cyrano is a swashbuckler, a swordsman, a member of the Gascony Guard; he’s confident, he’s strong, he’s cocky, he’s a poet, he cares about his fellow guards, but he’s got a huge ego (and a huge nose, which makes him insecure).  

“He’s not a humble man, but at the same time he’s also endearing because of his love of Roxane. He’s one of literature’s classic characters,”  said Quinlan, who added that the play “is right up there with the best of the romantic classics, I’d probably put it second to Romeo and Juliet and it’s hard to beat that.”

This adaptation of the original play is more amenable to audiences today, the director added. “It’s probably easier to understand because the language is more contemporary, but it didn’t lose any of the poetry along the way, it’s so beautiful to listen to.”

The original play also had a cast of 27 characters, Quinlan said, but this adaptation reduces that to nine.

“It’s really a lot of fun watching the actors kind of float in and out of different characters. And because there is only one female in the cast, some of the guys are playing women; it’s just a blast.”

J. Heath Huber plays Cyrano in the Village Players production. “It’s a great honor; I’m very excited to portray him,” Huber said. “He’s a character I grew up with. He’s a very romantic character who is brave in every single arena of life except love, because he has a lot of self-doubt. Cyrano is a fun-loving guy who happens to also have a big nose.

“In a way, everybody is a Cyrano because we all have something that we think is not quite right about us. A lot of us can identify with him.”

The production includes swordplay; Cyrano is a fencer and so is Huber. “I fenced at Bowling Green State University for 17 years, so it’s kind of fun to be a swashbuckler onstage.”

The actor was a member of the fencing club at BGSU and competed in tournaments. “But fencing competitively is a lot different from swordfighting onstage. In competitive fencing the whole goal is to actually hit your opponent, and in stage fencing the goal is not to, so hopefully I adapt to it well,” he said with a laugh. 

There are two songs in the show and Huber sings them both. “Cyrano is quite the artist with words, with wit, and with beauty, so he writes poetry, he sings songs, he does all that romantic stuff and he’s pretty intimidating with the sword, he’s quite the Renaissance man, but his downfall is that he’s insecure about his nose,” Huber said.

Unlike the rest of the cast, who play multiple characters, Huber plays just one, Cyrano.

“The original play had lots of characters who had one or two lines and then disappeared ... but in the adaptation all of the actors are onstage most of the time as well.”

In addition to Huber, the Village Players cast features Evan James Copeland as Le Bret, Zach Gilley as Christian, Emily Waters as Roxane, Ken Wieland as DeGuiche, Brice Armstrong as De Valvert, Matt Crawford as Ragueneau, James P. Foust as Ligniere, and Brad Riker as Desiree.

“The cast is great to work with, with a range of experience, which is the great thing about community theater,” Huber said “You get to work with old friends and make some new ones, and everyone gets to go on this little journey together.”

Performances of Cyrano are at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Village Players Theatre, 2740 Upton Ave. Additional performances are at  8 p.m. May 17, 18, and 19. Tickets, $18 general admission, $16 for seniors 60 and older and students with valid ID, are from thevillageplayers.org and 419-472-6817.

Contact Sue Brickey at: sbrickey@theblade.com

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