Communication is one of the most important aspects of human existence. Communication is a simple or perhaps not so simple way of responding and feeling in a way in which others can share, feel and respond. We usually think of communication as spoken word, however with the surge of technology surrounding us there are now immensely more ways to communicate with each other that far reach beyond the abilities of the spoken word. The Fountain Theatre is currently presenting a new rendition of the classic Cyrano De Bergerac with their collaboration with the Deaf West Theatre. Stephen Sach’s Cyrano is a modern interpretation of the classic tale, in which Cyrano (Troy Kotsur) is not hindered by his unpleasing looks but by his inability to hear. He falls in love with a hearing woman named Roxy (Erinn Anova), who of course is infatuated with Cyrano’s brother Chris (Paul Raci), who in this case is an aging rocker with a limited vocabulary.
Sach has written a heart wrenching love story that incorporates technology and how it can tear down barriers that may have been impossible to cross before. Throughout the play characters communicate with each other through emails, text messages, Facebook, etc. With exquisite Technical Direction by Scott Tuomey and Set Design by Jeff McLaughlin the stage is beautifully put together with diversity that can easily change from a bar to a rooftop to an apartment almost instantly. They make use of several television monitors that line the back of the stage to portray set backgrounds as well relay text messages to audiences and provide captions for any section of the play that does not include American Sign Language (ASL).
Much of this play is told through ASL and this could be a barrier between the actors who are trying to portray the story and the hearing audience who do not know ASL However, as one of those particular audience members I can tell you that is not the case. Deaf West Theatre has been around for 21 years and they obviously have mastered how to present an ASL play. The use of technology was beautifully done and it fit right in to the theme of the play. They also take it further by making great use of iphone applications such as maps to tracks Cyrano on his long walks.
None of this technology and translation would mean anything if the message of the play was not presented so passionately by Kotsur. A well-established ASL actor Kotsur brings out the pain of Cyrano’s situation through his signing. One might think that the lack of being able to use words in different tones and levels with different accents may take away from one’s acting, but in this case it absolutely does not. Kotsur signs with utter despair after he has pushed his brother Chris right into Roxy’s arms. The last scene will clutch at your heart as you watch Cyrano try so desperately to express his pain while for the first time during the play he has found himself at a loss for words.
Perhaps Kotsur is at a different level then some of the other cast, perhaps the character of Cyrano provides so much more to be presented then the others, but Kotsur is the definite star of this production. Anova’s Roxy seems one-dimensional but perhaps that is her plight, she loves Cyrano’s words and poetry, but is not all that intellectual herself. Raci’s Chris is hilarious as well as heart breaking and his sung rock solo in the second half is one of the best parts of the play.
Stephen Sach’s Cyrano is a different experience if you have never seen a Deaf West production before, however it is one worth experiencing. It is a beautiful tale of love and the boundaries it faces in a world where boundaries are being broken every day.