Thursday, January 08, 2009

Come on, Cyrano. Why her?

I went down to my home office last night to work but realized I wouldn't get much done because my son had to scramble to get his project done for the science fair and that he needed the computer. It's a fact of life at our house that if something is due tomorrow, he's pretty much starting it tonight--usually after 7pm. Even though he had the whole holiday break to work on it. Even though his mother and I (mostly his mother) badgered him about it every day.

So the futility of getting any work done and the lack of sleep but inability to do so that came from working on late-night projects for the last two days drove me to our new HD television that pulls it's signal not from a cable or a satellite dish but from a pair of rabbit-ears. I flipped through all of the new digital stations (a novelty that's already beginning to wear off) until I landed on the long protuberance that I instantly knew to be the nose of Cyrano. It was a stage play and I was mildly intrigued so I put down the remote and watched. I don't know how much of the play I'd missed but I entered in the middle of a duel between Cyrano and some fop. The actor playing Cyrano was a delight to watch. I don't like "Thespians" much--I prefer the subtlety and range of film acting. But this was no ordinary stage performance. For one thing, he didn't feel the need to shout as his counterparts were doing, yet he still filled the stage with his presence. I was instantly drawn in, not the least by the deftness with which he brought humor into the scene. I knew that I was familiar with the actor but I couldn't quite place him. It wasn't until a few scenes later that I realized it was Kevin Kline. So the comedy finally made sense--the kind of sense that can be summed up in 4 words: A Fish Called Wanda.

But it was more than just funny. Kline portrays Cyrano's confidence in his fighting and poetry that's born from the resignation of a man whose appearance is less than ideal with amazing agility. I absolutely loved it. I also loved how the audience responded to him.

Then there was Roxanne. I didn't recognize her at first, either, but it didn't take long to realize that that was the beautiful Jennifer Garner sitting there, enjoying Kline's performance with the rest of us. Then she started to speak and the beauty drained away. I hate to say these things about her because I think she's a great actor but her stage performance can be summed up in five words: A Fish Out of Water. She was the opposite of Kline in every way. There was no subtlety. She overplayed and forced her confidence and this exposed an odd lack of confidence. She contorted her face and gestured wildly, shouting every word. It very nearly ruined the whole thing for me. I got to the point where I had to ignore her and focus on the other performances. Kline's made the whole thing worthwhile but I can't imagine how much better the production would have been if they'd cast someone else for his leading lady.

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