For theatergoers who have enjoyed plays at American Players Theatre for a few seasons or more, there are some delightful details embedded in the production.
Friends and Enemies: Last season Chiké Johnson played Othello to Jim Ridge’s devious counselor Iago. In Cyrano, their roles are reversed. Johnson plays LeBret, who is constantly urging his friend to be less abrasive, less rash, and make fewer enemies. Where Othello succumbed to Iago’s treacherous advice, Cyrano does not attend his companion’s concerns.
A Fine Fop: Since DeVita crafted the script for Cyrano with APT’s core company in mind, he expanded the role of an ostentatiously adorned fop and wrote it specifically for Marcus Truschinski. “I knew he’d have fun with it,” DeVita said in a pre-show talk.
Confidantes: The role of Roxane’s chaperone is usually filled by an older actress, but DeVita was so taken with the friendship and onstage chemistry between actresses Kelsey Brennan and Laura Rook that he changed the dynamic slightly so that Brennan was more friend and confidante than disapproving nurse. Incidentally, the two women will play siblings later this summer in Chekhov’s Three Sisters.
A Deep Collaboration: While DeVita was assembling the script, he frequently asked his leading actor Jim Ridge to read through scenes in development and offer feedback. An extraordinary opportunity for both writer and actor, this experience undoubtedly built trust in the project long before rehearsals began.
Another Iliad: Although it is called for in the original script, APT audience members can give each other a knowing smile when Cyrano suggests that his fellow soldiers feast on a copy of The Iliad during a long siege. DeVita garnered rave reviews for his one-man-show An Iliad in 2016, both at the Milwaukee Rep and at APT.
Another Musketeer: There are references to Dumas’ Three Musketeers in the original script of Cyrano and DeVita keeps several intact, which is fitting since he has also adapted The Three Musketeers for the stage. It was produced by the Madison Rep in 1999.
DeVita vs. DeVita: Shortly before the play opened, APT Artistic Director Brenda DeVita sat in on a dress rehearsal and expressed concern about the play’s length. At more than three hours, she worried about the audience’s attention span and, perhaps more importantly, the limited time the company would have to change over the set for another play on the same day. As he recounted the story, James put his foot down to his boss/spouse, saying, “No, that’s the play. We tell long stories here. And we tell stories from a time when there wasn’t Twitter or TV. We can’t cut it.” And they didn’t.