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A CurtainUp Review
The Language of Love: Cyrano De Bergerac and Burning

Oh, that this too, too solid nose would melt. .— Cyrano
Shaun Bennet Fauntleroy and Catherine Curtin (Photo Credit: Jon Kandel)
Whatever the drawbacks to Resonance Ensemble's new productions of Cyrano de Bergerac and Burning, you must give the artistic director Eric Parness credit for pairing up the old chestnut with a contemporary play that resonates with our cultural moment. The two plays, in repertory at Theatre at St. Clement's, inaugurate the company's new season called The Language of Love.

Gabriel Barre steps into the plumed title role with more humility than any other Cyrano that I've seen to date. He doesn't chew the scenery, hog the stage, or commit any of the other sins that Cyranos are prone to indulge in. Instead, Barre, who also directs the production, seems intent on exploring the vulnerable aspects of his swashbuckling character. Yes, you will see Cyrano's signature panache when Barre pulls out a rapier in a twinkling, leaps into a duel and creates an envoy during the sword-clashing. After the steel blades have cooled, and the poetry put aside, Barre does a sharp volte face as he reveals the more tender-hearted side of the man who loves his cousin Roxanne. And you know how it plays out. Cyrano, with his over-size nose and self-doubt, lets the handsome but obtuse Christian win his cousin's hand, secretly penning love poetry for him that Roxanne swoons over at first hearing

The rest of the cast aren't only in his shadow. The ravishing-looking Bridget Saracino, is a fine Roxanne. Luke Darnell, as Christian, has the necessary good looks and ably projects his character's provincialism. Rin Allen aquits himself well in six roles— Valvert, Duenna, Actor, Lise, Cadet, Sister Marthe. Mark Peter is another resourceful multiple part player, especially as the arrogant cynic De Guiche. Many performers also do double-duty as musicians, playing guitars and traditional instruments which adds a soulful quality.

The production isn't flawless. Seating some of the audience on stage to facilitate audience interaction does give the huge performing space at St. Clement's a more intimate feel. But when two audience members are pulled into the action and asked to do a cold reading it would have helped to have microphones at the ready since they were hardly audible. It also slowed down the momentum of this otherwise brisk-paced production.

My quibbling aside, Barre and company don't lose the spirit of Rostand's original poetry and adds its own panache.

Cyrano's Partner Play: Burning

Burning gives Cyrano a gender-bending, American twist. Written by Ginger Lazurus, and directed by Eric Parness, it buttonholes contemporary issues of gender equality and a person's sexual orientation.

The plot has clear echoes of Rostand's play. The central character Cy is a latter-day Cyrano. Discharged from the military for being a lesbian, she now runs a country store in a remote Western town near a military base, and writes a blog that has become her platform for social change. She is in love with Rose, who loves a good-looking—but inarticulate corporal named Cole from a nearby army base. After and persuades him to date Rose. When Cole reveals that he has difficulty expressing his feelings to Rose, Cy plasy a modern-day Cupid for him and composes romantic emails for Cole to cut and paste and send off to Rose as his own love letters. Yes, it gets more complicated and intense but to say more would make me a spoiler.

There's no question that Catherine Curtin as Cy is the real stand-out in this peculer menage a trois. She melts into her character and is utterly convincing as the army sergeant whose promising career was cut short by being too outspoken about her own sexual orientation. Shaun Bennet Fauntleroy and Sean Phillip are also excellent.

It's the overall excellence of the acting that really makes this double bill of something old plus something new catch fire

Cyrano De Bergerac by Edmond Rostand, adapted by Gabriel Barre, Rick Sordelet and Alexander Sovronsky
Directed by Gabriel Barre
Cast: Gabriel Barre (Cyrano), Bridget Saracino (Roxanne), Luke Darnell (Christian), Rin Allen (Valvert, Duenna, Actor, Lise, Cadet, Sister Marthe), Joe Jung (Ragueneau, Actor, Cadet, Musician), Mark Peters (De Guiche, Actor, Muskateer, Cadet), Alexander Sovronsky (Ligniere, Pickpocket, Bellerose, Poet, Bertrandou, Musician, Sister Claire), and Louis Tucci (Le Bret, Poet, Capuchiny).
Sets: Ashley Cusack
Composer: Alexander Sovronsky
Lighting: Pamela Kupper
Action Director: Rick Sordelet
Costumes: Peter Fogel
Stage Manager: Paige D. Carter
The playing schedule is Wednesday at 2 & 8pm; Thursday - Friday at 8pm; Saturday at 2 & 8pm; Sunday at 3pm & 7pm, added performances on Sunday, 2/7 at 8pm/Monday, 2/8 at 7pm; Tuesday 2/16 & 2/23 at 7pm.
Running time: 2 hours; 30 minutes with intermission.

Burning by Ginger Lazurus
Directed by Eric Parness
Cast: Catherine Curtin (Cy), Chris Ceraso (Dulac), Zachary Clarence (Sammy), Shaun Bennet Fauntleroy (Rose), and Sean Phillips (Cole).
Sets: Ashley Cusack
Composer and Sound: Nick Moore
Lighting: Pamela Kupper
Costumes: Sidney Shannon
Props: Jessica Sovronsky
Fight Director: Joseph Travers
Stage Manager: Jenna R. Lazar
Running Time: 2 hours; 10 minutes with intermission.

The Language of Love: Cyrano de Bergerac and Burning run in repertory From 2/03/16; opening 2/08/16; closing 2/28/16 at Theatre at St. Clement's at 423 West 46th Street, for tickets and playing schedules:
Reviewed by Deirdre Donovan at 2/06/16 matinee and evening press performances
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