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By Mark Sterner · June 4th, 2010 · Fringe

Critic's Pick

Our first impression is that of a makeshift performance. A black curtain is strung between aluminum poles, actors are rifling through a large plastic box of props, as well as putting on various costume pieces. When one actor complains about some sweat pants, another one says: “But they look good on you.”

We'll soon learn, appearances to the contrary, that this is a razor sharp group of young acting interns from the Cincinnati Playhouse, whose timing and communication skills are as good as any professional baseball team, and probably better than some.

This Cyrano, by Jo Roets, is a highly condensed version of Edmond Rostand’s three-hour romantic comedy. It's sleeker and sharper but lacks some of the poetry and dimensionality of the original.

What remains is a post-modern machine for shaking out the story and meaning of Cyrano and Roxanne.

Sporting a baseball cap turned backward and stuck with quill-like feather, Tim Abrahamsen is as rugged and tenacious a Cyrano as you’re likely to see. He's so motivated by his love for Roxanne that he never wavers in his course for a moment. He's entirely believable — even with his Macaw nose — and his conviction as an actor makes him more watchable than some solipsistic romantic. Plus he single-handedly fights off 100 men!

As Roxanne, Kelly Pekar is a modern young woman, always going after what she wants — or thinks she wants. Her portrayal is big, vibrant and at times insouciant. Jonathan Self is more apt to be consciously comedic than the other two, but this is probably a result of having to differentiate among so many characters, one of whom is the biggest ass (literally) I’ve ever seen on stage. His Christian is so sincerely, fumblingly in love with Roxanne that it borders on the tragic.

Due credit must be given to Grant Cambridge, the percussionist who most creatively and surprisingly accompanies much of the play’s action. Also to director Mark Lutwak, the Cincinnati Playhouse’s director of education, who conspired to bring us this piece.

The tight little ensemble that makes up Cyrano admittedly provides a different kind of entertainment than most of the Fringe but deserves to be widely seen for its own merits.

(Get upcoming performance dates and venue details here.)



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