Swordfights, poetry and a 17th-century French romance will take the stage beginning, appropriately, on Valentine’s Day in Lewisburg.
RiverStage Community Theatre will perform five nights of “Cyrano,” by Edmond Rostand, and adapted by Michael Hollinger and Aaron Posner. The 2011 play is an updated version of the classic 1897 French comedy, “Cyrano de Bergerac,” about a “hopelessly romantic swordsman with the ridiculously long nose.”
Peter Wiley, of Lewisburg, who is directing RiverStage’s performance, said the timing for this play is not coincidence.
“The play is great for Valentine’s Day,” he said, “because it talks a great deal about love, and it asks the audience to think about the meanings of love in our lives — something much deeper than the candy hearts and roses piled in the stores this time of year.”
According to Wiley, this new version of the beloved classic is “a streamlined plot that still stays true to the core story.”
“The playwrights have said their goal was to create a work true to Rostand’s story but allow a modern audience to ‘hear the story with fresh ears’,” he explained, “so that’s been our inspiration.”
The biggest difference between the two versions, he said, is scale. Compared to the 30 parts in the original, this play requires nine actors playing multiple parts.
At the center of the play is its namesake, Cyrano de Bergerac, who Wiley describes as “a brilliant swordsman and poet with larger-than-life aspirations”, making the play “passionate, truthful and exuberant.” In general, he said, the play is “part comedy, tragedy and romance all in one.”
The demands of producing this play required skill and hard work.
“The main challenge is creating the world of 1640s France, including multiple locations, appropriate fashion, and a swordfight on stage in which 100 men are killed,” Wiley said, adding that they were able to meet those challenges well with the help of fight choreographer Aaron White and costume designer Maggie Able.
Nick Buckman, of Catawissa, will be playing “Cyrano.” He describes him as a “fascinating character – a passionate and bold swordsman, but ultimately lacking in self-confidence and far too self-conscious about his appearance.”
Buckman said the character is very relatable: “I feel a great deal of sympathy for him and his experiences.”
One of the greatest challenges, Buckman said, has been an action sequence where he defeats 100 opponents in a sword fight. But more generally, the character stretched his acting ability farther than it’s ever been before — “from boisterous boasting to anguish and longing,” he said, adding that he was grateful to be in this learning experience alongside Wiley and “this top-notch cast.”
RiverStage’s performance includes 10 actors and five crew, including designers.
For Brittane Strahan, of Milton, who will play “Roxane,” acting in the play has been a great experience, especially after she fell in love with the story when she read it in high school.
“It is truly a story of love, loss, and language that pulls on the heart,” she said.
Her character believes that she has fallen in love with a handsome soldier named Christian, Strahan explained, “and only realizes later that she actually fell in love with the words and ideas of Cyrano.”
Strahan said the role has stretched her as well.
“Learning the speech for such a big role has been a challenge,” she said, “but Roxane feels a lot like me, because she is a mix of self-assured, unsure, knowing, naïve and ready to love.”
As with any play, Wiley said he has enjoyed watching the actors “develop and refine their characters.”
Buckman is sure that audiences will love it.
“The language in this adaptation is beautiful,” he said, “because it’s got enough color and style without most of the archaic parts of the original. Audiences young and old can enjoy Cyrano’s world, his wit and charm, and the story is full of comedy, action and tragedy.”